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March 11, 2004

Singapore maritime industry set to grow

Singapore's maritime industry is forecasted to grow at annual rates of 6.5%-9.3% in the short term to 7.0%-8.7% in the long term, up to 2018. This expected growth bodes well for local students and future job seekers. It signals greater demand for skilled manpower, and will continue to offer good and stable career opportunities with good salaries for the local workforce.

These are among the findings of a manpower study jointly commissioned by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM)/Workforce Development Agency (WDA) in June 2003.

The primary aims of the manpower study were to:

Establish the current workforce profile and manpower requirements in the Singapore maritime industry;

Project Singapore's maritime manpower requirements in the short, medium and long terms;

Identify the manpower training strengths and gaps in the industry; and

Ascertain the views of maritime professionals and Singapore students about the industry and their demand for further maritime studies.

The study indicates that there are currently about 116,800 persons employed in the Singapore maritime industry. Of these, about 70% are engaged in shore-based employment, while 30% are sea-going personnel.

The shipping management sector, covering shipping lines, ship chartering, ship management, ship agencies and shipbroking activities, is the largest employment sector, absorbing about 40% of the maritime workforce (both shore-based and sea-going).

Salaries drawn by personnel in the maritime industry, especially sea-going personnel were found to be largely comparable to the salaries received by those with equivalent qualifications or skill-sets in other industries. For example, a fresh diploma graduate starting in the shore-based maritime industry may earn an average monthly salary of S$1,400 (about US $817) which is roughly comparable to the average starting monthly salary of fresh diploma graduates in other industries.

It is projected that the maritime workforce will increase at an annual compound rate of up to 5.2% for shore-based personnel and 1.9% for sea-going personnel (onboard Singapore-registered vessels), reaching over 200,000 for the entire maritime industry in 2018. The sectors with the highest employment growth are shipbuilding and repair, freight forwarding, shipping management and cargo terminals.

Maritime training offered in Singapore is "perceived to be established and recognised worldwide. The local training institutions are considered to have high-tech equipment and facilities, and offer good and well-managed training programs. Suggestions to further improve the local maritime training programmes include having more hands-on training and establishing maritime degree courses."

The study also indicated a shortage in the supply of trained manpower from the Singapore maritime education/training system for new shore-based jobs, estimated to reach about 5,000 in 2013 and 2018.

Maritime professionals surveyed generally held very positive views about the industry. Most considered the industry to be growing, with good career prospects. They had found their work challenging and interesting. Of the 114 personnel surveyed over a two-month period (Sep-Oct 03), only a handful indicated any intention to leave the industry.

Another key finding was that more than half of the maritime professionals expressed interest in pursuing further studies, with seven in 10 respondents willing to take up part-time degree or postgraduate degree courses in the maritime field, if they were offered at a local university. Maritime students polled also held similar positive views of the industry and indicated their interest in pursuing higher qualifications in maritime-related fields.

RADM (NS) Lui Tuck Yew, Chief Executive, MPA, said, "While the Manpower Study has provided us with a clear picture of where the Singapore maritime industry is headed and the attendant manpower required to power its growth, the challenge for us is to develop an adequate supply of Singapore maritime expertise in the years to come. Excellent career opportunities with commensurate salaries are projected. The maritime sector needs to be promoted to young people as a worthwhile career, both at sea and on shore. The MPA will work closely with WDA, the maritime community and local education/training institutions to determine the plans to be put in place to further grow and enhance our maritime manpower."

Mr Leo Yip, Chief Executive, WDA, said, "The joint study has shown that the maritime cluster will continue to grow and generate significant employment opportunities for the local workforce. Our ongoing collaboration with MPA and the industry will focus on three key aspects:--Establishing a strong pipeline of local workers to enter the sector through timely dissemination of information on employment opportunities and the skills required to take up these jobs;--Developing relevant training programs to supply the skilled manpower needed by industry; and--Raising the awareness and profile of careers in the maritime industry.

"WDA's workforce development initiatives will serve to augment MPA's efforts to enhance Singapore's status as an International Maritime Centre (IMC)."

The maritime manpower study is part of the MPA's efforts to ensure the continued growth of the Singapore maritime industry and drive the development of Singapore as an international maritime center.

Going forward, MPA will be working closely with WDA, the maritime community and local education/training institutions to follow up on the findings of the manpower study and develop action plans. As a first step, the MPA has worked with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to establish a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Studies (Shipping) program and a Master of Science in Shipping program, under its College of Engineering. The programs will commence in July this year.

In the pipeline, MPA and WDA will be looking into setting up a steering committee with industry participation, to monitor the manpower needs of the industry and steer initiatives to address these needs. MPA and WDA will also be looking into formulating a Maritime Manpower Development Plan to meet the projected manpower needs of the Singapore maritime industry. The plan would likely include comprise three components, namely a tertiary education roadmap, a maritime career roadmap and a maritime publicity roadmap.

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