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Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance at the 50th Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) Anniversary Dinner on 26 October 2018, at Fairmont Hotel

26 Oct 2018

Mr Abu Bakar Bin Mohd Nor, 
President, Association of Singapore Marine Industries

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.


1. A very good evening to all of you. My heartiest congratulations to the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) on your Golden Jubilee. I am very happy to join the Marine and Offshore Engineering (M&OE) community tonight, to celebrate this milestone.

2. Since the late sixties, Singapore’s M&OE industry has grown remarkably.

a. Started from humble beginnings as a small regional ship repair and building centre, and with just four domestic marine firms.

b. Far East Shipbuilding completed the first jack-up rig in 1969, which was a significant first step that helped to launch Singapore’s rigbuilding sector. 

c. In 1983, Singapore became the world’s largest ship repair centre in terms of capacity and continues to lead as a global frontrunner in ship repair, ship conversion, offshore construction and specialised shipbuilding. 

d. Today, there are over 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and companies that are leaders in providing solutions.

e. In 2017, this industry contributed S$2.7 billion dollars to Singapore’s gross domestic product, S$9.8 billion dollars to Singapore’s total manufacturing output and employed more than 24,000 resident workers. 

f. This is noteworthy, because in spite of the last three years being one of the most difficult times for the industry, the industry has continued to do well and to stay resilient.

3. I am encouraged to see so many leaders and partners of the M&OE community here tonight. It shows the support of the industry for ASMI, which has come a long way since its establishment in 1968. 

a. As Abu Bakar has mentioned, ASMI started with only 10 members to represent the interests of the local ship repair and shipbuilding industry. 

b. But it has since grown. Today, it has more than 200 members from a cross section of the industry, including shipyards, manufacturers and suppliers of marine equipment, service and solution providers. 

c. Over the years, ASMI has led its members to improve productivity by introducing several initiatives.

i. A Marine Technology Programme to advance automation in shipbuilding and repair, and develop new processes for enhanced safety and productivity is one example; 

ii. Workforce Skills Qualification Operations Management Innovation Programme for the marine industry to identify and address productivity gaps is another. 

d. I’m glad that ASMI is also actively developing new talents for the industry. 

i. In 1987, the Association introduced Scholarships for Ngee Ann Polytechnic students enrolled in this sector. 

ii. Over time, the Scholarship Scheme has expanded to include students pursuing relevant courses in other polytechnics, the universities as well as Institute of Technical Education (ITE). These scholarships, sponsored by the major shipyards, have developed a steady pipeline of trained talents and leaders to join the industry.

e. ASMI has also been raising the international profile of the industry, participating in various trade shows overseas. 

f. So let me commend ASMI for initiating and implementing these initiatives. I am confident that you will continue to do so in the years ahead. 

4. Moving forward, the industry must continue to build on its foundation and transform, in line with the theme for tonight’s dinner “Building New Capabilities, Transforming for Growth”. We launched the M&OE Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in February this year. We hope the industry will grow its value-add to S$5.8 billion dollars and create 1,500 new jobs by 2025. To achieve these, it would require all of us to work together. Let me suggest three ways for the transformation. 

Cultivating a spirit of leadership

5. First, cultivating a spirit of leadership. I’m glad that ASMI and the leadership in our companies are moving to steer the industry to transform. 

i. I am glad that ASMI had set up the M&OE ITM Programme Office in May to assist in the implementation of key ITM initiatives. It has made good progress. The Office works with companies, in particular SMEs, to adopt productivity solutions, encourage innovation, and meet manpower needs. 

a. The leadership in companies play a critical role in identifying new growth areas. 

i. Such as the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and offshore renewables. Global expenditure on LNG is expected to exceed $280 billion US dollars by 2021[1], while the global offshore wind market is projected to exceed $60 billion US dollars by 2024[2]. Keppel Offshore & Marine successfully delivered the world’s first converted floating liquefaction vessel in 2017.

ii. I encourage all of you here to explore new areas such as these.

b. Leadership requires more than just foresight. The top management and supervisors of each company must inspire and motivate your workers, forge cohesion among teams, and overcome challenges together. 

i. Outstanding supervisors in the marine industry should be recognised. The Certified Marine Supervisor Award which will be presented later recognises such supervisors. They have taken the effort to upgrade their skills and are good role models in their respective sectors. 

ii. Similarly, the ASMI Awards also recognise individuals who have made significant contributions to ASMI and the M&OE industry. Congratulations to all recipients!

Enhancing productivity of the industry and companies

6. Next, I will touch on the second key thing we will need to do, which is productivity improvement. ASMI has done much to improve productivity. But I think more can be done. The industry must continue to adopt new digital technologies, to improve operational efficiency, develop cost-effective solutions and generate new revenue streams. 

7. Our companies and shipyards must continue to integrate new technologies into their business processes and deepen their capabilities. 

a. Take for example Keppel Offshore & Marine, Sembcorp Marine and ST Engineering Marine. These firms, with the support of ASMI, are implementing new technologies such as long range networks that enable long range transmissions using digital data communication technology, and Internet of Things (IOT) to keep track of manpower and materials within the shipyard and in confined spaces. 

i. This would enable shipyards and their contractors to be more productive.

8. Companies can also partner one another for better outcomes. Larger players can collaborate with SMEs to adopt the latest technologies, and build new capabilities. 

a. ASMI, in partnership with ESG, is working with Sembcorp Marine and three SMEs on the adoption of drone technology for visual inspections. 

i. This project will help to improve productivity and workplace safety. 

9. I encourage SMEs to also actively implement solutions to develop your capabilities.

a. ASMI, as a Lean Enterprise Development Multiplier, can help SMEs adopt manpower-lean solutions and develop their workforce. For example, ASMI has introduced the Scaffold Coupler Servicing Solution to other marine scaffolding SMEs. 

i. This solution is developed by Hoo Huat Engineering and Ngee Ann Polytechnic Centre of Innovation for Marine & Offshore Technology, and involves the use of semi-automated machines to replace manual labour to service scaffold couplers. 

ii. This will help to improve the productivity of servicing used couplers and promote workplace safety by reducing workers’ fatigue. 

iii. More importantly, it can re-design the job of servicing couplers and enable the re-employment and deployment of mature workers to use the machines, as well as re-deployment of skilled workers to other jobs.

Upskilling the workforce

10. The third area that I would like to share is the upskilling of our workforce. For the past 50 years, the M&OE industry has been a sizable employer of our workforce. As the industry transforms, we must ensure that the skills of our workforce continue to meet the needs of the industry.

11. For new entrants and experienced professionals, we have initiatives in place to help them develop their careers.

a. For example, the Skills Framework for Marine & Offshore launched in February this year, provides information on trends, career pathways, and the skills and competencies needed in growth areas such as digitalisation and renewables. It is jointly developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Workforce Singapore (WSG), EDB and ESG, together with ASMI, training providers, and unions.

12. We must also continue to upskill and reskill our workers, so that they may move into other higher value-added roles, earn better salaries and improve their livelihoods. 

a. One support measure is the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP). WSG has been working closely with ASMI to support workforce reskilling and upgrading through the PCP to help companies retrain existing workers in new areas and competencies, and to place them in new job functions.

i. ASMI, as the PCP programme manager, has approved 390 placements to date.

b. We are also doing more to help those with relevant practical experience but lacking formal academic qualifications. 

i. For example, in April this year, ITE launched its Work-Learn Technical Diploma in M&OE to provide individuals with on-the-job training to prepare them for a professional career in the industry. 

13. Development of talent can starteven earlier. We can build a strong foundation of relevant knowledge and skills in our students, provide them with practical experience, and to prepare them for future jobs.

a. For example, in 2015, ASMI, together with 8 key stakeholders, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for SkillsFuture Earn-and-Learn Programme and Enhanced Internship to develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for polytechnic and ITE graduates in the M&OE sector.


14. Let me conclude. ASMI’s role in promoting the industry will continue to be important. I have suggested three ways to grow the industry – cultivating a spirit of leadership, enhancing productivity of the industry and companies, and upskilling our workforce. This requires the collective effort in all of us.

15. There is cautious optimism in the global marine & offshore industry with the recovery of oil prices. Despite the challenging climate, I am glad that companies and all of you here are making the effort to deepen and broaden capabilities. I encourage all of our companies to continue with their transformation efforts, and take advantage of the new opportunities as they prepare for the recovery in the industry. 

16. Congratulations to ASMI once again on your 50th Anniversary, and all the best to you in the years ahead. Thank you very much.


[1] Douglas-Westwood’s World LNG Market Forecast 2017 - 2021
[2] Global Market Insights’ Offshore Wind Energy Market Report – Updated as of 26 July 2018