Maritime leaders kicked off the year with fresh hope and a new chairman at the helm.
AT the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF)'s annual cocktail evening, some 200 maritime leaders kicked off the year with fresh hope and a new chairman at the helm. They also looked back on the achievement of surviving 2009 - when container traffic plunged 13.5 per cent, according to preliminary figures.
'2009 was a challenging year. We had to contend with global economic uncertainties, falling freight rates and tightening liquidity,' Transport Minister Raymond Lim said at the event at the Sentosa Pavilion.
'Amid the economic uncertainties, our focus has been on lowering business costs and upgrading skills. It is still early to tell what 2010 will bring, but we start on a cautiously optimistic note.'
In 2009, cargo throughput fell 8.9 per cent to 469.6 million tonnes, even though vessel arrival tonnage grew 10.1 per cent to 1.78 billion gross tonnes and bunker sales grew 4.2 per cent to 36.4 million tonnes - cementing Singapore's place as the world leader in container throughput, vessel arrival tonnage and bunker sales.
The year also saw growth in the Singapore Registry of Ships, which rose 4.4 per cent to 45.6 million gross tonnes.
Ongoing efforts to attract maritime-related companies to Singapore also bore fruit, with carrier Oceanic Livestock, international law firm Hill Dickinson and P&I club The Shipowners' Protection Ltd setting up here last year.
'There are certainly reasons to celebrate in 2010 now that we have tided over the economic downturn,' said SMF's new chairman Michael Chua.
'The recovery of the maritime industry may not be as fast as other industries, but the fact remains that this sector is one of the pillars of Singapore's economy and is set to play a more important role as the shipping sphere of influence moves from the West to the East.'
Among government-led measures to cut business costs and enhance skills, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) introduced maritime-specific relief measures to complement the broader Jobs Credit scheme and special risk-sharing initiatives of the government, including port dues concessions and help to defray accreditation costs for bunker surveying companies. And extra funds were allocated to the Maritime Cluster Fund to support new business development.
There have also been efforts to boost awareness of the maritime sector, with the Singapore Maritime Week from April 25 to 30 a key event.
Amid SMF's leadership change, tribute was paid to the passion and commitment of founding SMF chairman SS Teo, who has stepped down after a six-year term.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua, Ministry of Transport Permanent Secretary Choi Shing Kwok, Ministry of National Development Deputy Secretary (Development) Tay Lim Heng and MPA chairman Lucien Wong were among those present last night.