The strength and robustness of shipping both in Singapore and the South East Asian region was put into sharp focus at the Singapore Shipping Association’s 28th Anniversary Gala Dinner, held in the splendour of the West & Central Compass Ballroom at the Resorts World Convention Center in Sentosa.
Addressing 1,800 attendees, Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, said that while the past year had been a challenging one for the shipping industry, the long-term fundamentals for the maritime sector in the region remained strong.
Noting SSA’s contributions as a voice of the industry, Mrs. Teo praised the strong tripartite partnership that existed between the Singapore Government, the shipping industry and the unions. She highlighted the need to maintain the good relationship in order to continue to grow Singapore as a global hub port and leading International Maritime Center.
Embracing the strong Asian theme, SSA President Patrick Phoon called on the shipping industry to harness the opportunities that Asia was presenting: “The dynamism, robustness and growing affluence of the Asian economies, despite the small blips, is what’s keeping the shipping industry buoyant,” he told Gala Dinner guests.
“Despite the global economic slowdown, the Asian Development Bank has projected that Asean is forecasted to grow by 5.2% this year and 5.6% in 2014. These growths are largely dependent on trade within the Asean community. An essential element of that community is Asean’s economic integration. With increasing affluence, the region is expected to increase the demand of goods and services in the years ahead,” he said.
“The phased removal of tariffs and trade barriers for goods and services by 2015, particularly with regard to the development of an Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA), will boost the bloc’s appeal as a production base. Moreover, an integrated Asean economy would allow Asean to compete, both within Asia and on a global scale. Whilst more needs to be done, particularly with regard to connectivity, there are great opportunities for shipping companies in Asean, especially when the global economy and the industry as a whole still face uncertain times.
“Nonetheless, I maintain that shipping is in a reasonably good shape despite the problems that we are all facing. It is an industry in which long-term investments have tended to bring long-term rewards. As such, it is worth maintaining a long-term outlook. The order book for new ships is still alarmingly high and reports are suggesting that the rates of scrapping may be slowing it down. In my view, there is therefore a strong need for greater understanding to maintain equilibrium to help the global shipping industry recover,” he added.
Looking to the domestic market, Mr. Phoon said the SSA was doing everything it could, though intra-governmental department dialogue, to continually reduce business costs, increase productivity levels and help Singapore maintain its competitive edge especially in these difficult times.
“I am very heartened to note that our close working relationship with our government and its agencies such as the MPA has been strengthening continuously over the years.
“Your Association (the SSA) is also working very closely with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that your manpower concerns, both at sea and on land, are being addressed, in order to support the growing shipping industry in Singapore,” he stressed.