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Developing a vibrant innovation ecosystem and promoting digitalisation among key strategies outlined in vision for maritime Singapore

Developing a vibrant innovation ecosystem and promoting digitalisation among key strategies outlined in vision for maritime Singapore

Photo credit: PSA

The International Maritime Centre (IMC) 2030 Advisory Committee, established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in August 2016, has submitted the IMC 2030 Strategic Review report to the Singapore Government. The Committee’s vision is for Maritime Singapore to be the Global Maritime Hub for Connectivity, Innovation and Talent.

The Committee, chaired by Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao, Chairman of BW Group, comprises 21 other global business leaders and experts from diverse sectors such as maritime, finance, commodities trading, logistics, finance and technology.

The Committee’s vision is underpinned by five key strategies focused on leveraging Singapore’s core strengths and anchoring physical and non-physical flows that will enhance the vibrancy and competitiveness of our hub port and IMC: 1) Expand and deepen the maritime cluster; 2) Strengthen inter-linkages and network effects; 3) Develop a vibrant maritime innovation ecosystem and promote digitalisation; 4) Develop a multi-skilled maritime workforce with a global mindset; and 5) Establish Singapore as a global maritime standard bearer.

In terms of digital technologies and innovation, the recommendations are to build a strong maritime cluster centred on strong alignment of innovation and R&D efforts between public and private sectors and to promote digitalisation of the maritime industry leveraging Big Data, Internet-of-Things, and Intelligent Systems.

A vibrant maritime innovation ecosystem would be characterised by a diverse and tight-knit community of maritime enterprises (including start-ups and scale-ups), maritime technology solution providers, researchers, incubators, and venture capitalists, supported by an enabling environment.

In particular, efforts centred on building up local capabilities in niche areas (e.g. vessel conversions, autonomous systems) should be encouraged and readily supported. As a start, the Singapore Government can encourage greater sharing of data between the maritime industry and the research/technology community.

It is also important that Singapore better aligns research efforts of both the public and private sectors with the needs of the industry. At the industry level, the Singapore Government can help accelerate the development of maritime technological capabilities by leveraging strategic projects and joint research programmes with the industry (e.g. Next Generation Port 2030[1]).

Furthermore, Singapore could position itself as a global maritime “living lab” to pilot front-end concepts and serve as a launch pad for exportable products and solutions. The Singapore Government should work together with various stakeholders to support the growth of maritime technology start-ups and scale-ups to strengthen the maritime innovation ecosystem.

The report highlights “PSA unboXed”, PSA International’s corporate venture arm, as a good example of a private sector driven initiative.

In June 2016, PSA, with the support of MPA and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), committed around S$100 million to establish the “PSA Living Lab”, a living laboratory for the port and logistics industry. Comprising two operational berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal, the PSA Living Lab enables technology solution providers to collaborate with PSA to develop and test-bed ideas in a live port environment, which is amongst the world’s busiest container hubs. An example of a technology test-bedded at the PSA Living Lab is the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) system, which would be deployed for terminal operations at existing terminals, and eventually at Singapore’s future Tuas mega port.

Similarly, in March 2017, MPA announced the plan for a “MPA Living Lab” to provide a platform, with sufficient scale and real operating conditions, that technology providers and industry players can plug into for the co-development and piloting of innovative solutions. The MPA Living Lab will focus on developing technological capabilities in data analytics & intelligent systems; autonomous systems & robotics; smart & innovative infrastructure; and safety, security & environment.

The report notes that the rate of digitalisation varies among subsectors and among companies in the maritime industry. Despite the opportunities presented by digitalisation in areas such as predictive vessel maintenance, bunker fuel optimisation, and global fleet monitoring, digital investments by maritime companies have, thus far, remained relatively low.

According to the report, the Singapore Government should therefore work with the industry to drive greater digitalisation of the maritime industry to enable productivity-driven growth in the longer term. For instance, the Singapore Government could encourage higher participation in national-level initiatives such as the National Trade Platform (NTP[2]) and the Maritime Single Window (MSW[3]) to enhance digital connectivity of the maritime community with the wider trade and logistics ecosystem.

Another recommendation is to identify specific segments of the value chain to encourage the development of industry-wide digital solutions such as e-documentation to reduce paper-intensive transactions. In this regard, the Singapore Government, along with partners such as Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), can play a greater role to increase the awareness of the benefits of digitalisation.

Industry grant schemes (e.g. Maritime Cluster Fund -Productivity) that can support industry players in their efforts to digitalise.

The Committee believes that the Singapore Government should ensure that the regulatory environment is conducive for cross-sector collaboration by being open to pilot trials and regulatory sandboxes to test-bed innovative solutions with high potential. Joint efforts between MPA and likeminded partners such as SPRING Singapore/Enterprise Singapore should be encouraged to support innovative pursuits in emerging areas of interest, such as that relating to data management and security as well as applications of new technologies.

Developing a workforce with future-ready skills would also be essential to realising the vision. The report notes that skills in demand include automation, data analytics, cybersecurity and green shipping.

MPA commissioned the Singapore Maritime Cluster Manpower Demand and Supply Study in 2016 as part of its efforts to better understand the drivers of maritime manpower growth and develop policies to address future manpower challenges. The study identified a list of core skills that would be important for the maritime industry in the future: Digital literacy & data analytics; Environmental engineering and green technologies; and Soft skills.

The report says that while it is important that IHLs (Institutes of Higher Learning) continue to develop these skills among students, employers have to accept that a large part of these skill sets can only be developed on the job. In 2017, MPA enhanced the MCF-Manpower Development programme to support maritime workers in acquiring these competencies through skillsupgrading and training courses.

[1]Under the NGP 2030 roadmap, the Tuas Terminal Development will be developed in four phases over a span of some 30 years, with Phase 1 scheduled to be completed by the early 2020s.

[2] The NTP, developed by Singapore Customs in collaboration with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, is designed to be a trade and logistics IT ecosystem connecting businesses, community systems and platforms, and government systems. It is going to be a one-stop trade portal for Business-to-Government (B2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) services.

[3] The MSW is an inter-government agency effort led by MPA to develop an interconnected digital platform that facilitates single window port clearance declarations and the booking of port services as well as enables cross-border data exchange within the maritime community. The MSW will simplify and automate port, immigration, and port health clearance procedures to improve transparency and efficiency. The portal will serve as a community platform to experiment new port digitalisation services in the future and forms part of the NGP systems to support the implementation of Just-in-Time arrival and International Maritime Organization (IMO) e-Navigation where information exchange between ship and shore will be in electronic form and automated.


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