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  Straits Times 26 Sep 07
Maritime industry sailing ahead
Maritime sector needs to nurture more talent: MM
Nazry Bahrawi

Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 07
MM Lee says shipping remains basic part of Singapore's economy


Business Times 26 Sep 07
Singapore to sail beyond port to maritime centre
There's a need for such centres in Asia as shipping grows, says MM Lee
By CONRAD RAJ

(SINGAPORE) Singapore will do all it can to retain its position in the maritime world. In fact, it could expand its role.

Delivering the Inaugural Maritime Lecture at the Fullerton Hotel yesterday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said: 'Singapore's raison d'entre was its port. Singapore must strive to remain a major hub port.'

It was a point he reiterated several times during an hour-long question time following his 20-minute address.

He noted that a large cluster of over 5,000 maritime businesses and services had grown around the port contributing 7.5 per cent to the gross domestic product in 2005 and providing employment to 95,800 people or around 4.1 per cent of the total workforce.

'It (the port) has given Singapore a first-mover advantage that continues to pay good dividends to the economy,' said Mr Lee.

Going forward, he said Singapore will have to go beyond its status as a major hub port to become an international maritime centre providing a full suite of services such as maritime finance, insurance and legal services.

'Shipping will play an ever bigger role in the economic well-being of countries as trade expands. With the rise of China and India as two huge manufacturing bases, Asians will be major players in maritime activities,' said Mr Lee.

He added: 'The world's maritime nations will need centres in Asia known for integrity, quality and neutrality to enable them to plug into Asia's growth. Singapore hopes to be one such centre.'

He said that following the loss of Maersk and Evergreen in 2000 and 2002, respectively, Singapore's business model had adapted to meet the needs of shipping lines seeking to run their own terminals.

'We are continuing our investment in new facilities and infrastructure to be in time for the future.' Mr Lee added: 'Maritime Singapore is a hub port and much more. In the area of shipbuilding, since the opening of shipyards at Sembawang and the western industrial zone, Singapore has become a major shipbuilding and repair centre. Our shipyards are now world leaders in rig construction and vessel conversions, forming the core of our burgeoning offshore and marine sector.'

However, he warned of potential hindrances to trade looming in the background. 'Strained US-China relations, protectionism in the West, and intensified concerns on maritime security and environmental protection are areas where excessive preventive actions may hurt the global trading system.

'There is also the danger that unilateral measures on maritime and cargo security, such as the recent requirement that all US-bound containers be scanned in foreign ports by 2012, will slow down the flow of trade.'

Mr Lee said that Singapore had proposed a system of shared responsibility for the security of the containers.

Global warming could also affect shipping trends, he felt. As a result of the melting of polar ice-caps over the Arctic, he thought that in the next few decades, shipping lines may switch to these Arctic routes during the summer season.

On a question about the threat from increasing costs, Mr Lee was more sanguine, assuring that Singapore would remain cheaper than the competition, especially the likes of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.

He said housing costs, which had risen sharply as a result of an influx of bankers and other executives, would stabilise, once new supply comes on stream. 'We got to watch it closely to make sure it doesn't run away and drag us to an uncompetitive situation,' he said.

But his thumbs-up to the maritime industry was clear-cut. It was quite a turnaround for a man who once felt that the maritime sector was a sunset industry.

What Mr Lee said he did not anticipate was the ability of the companies in the sector to co-opt workers from abroad. It was easier to relocate an air hub but not a port, the minister mentor said.

Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 07
MM Lee says shipping remains basic part of Singapore's economy

SINGAPORE: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said shipping remains an important component of Singapore's economy, despite forays into other new areas like biomedical sciences.

Mr Lee pointed out that the shipping industry provides secure employment. Shipping contributed 7.5 percent of Singapore's GDP in 2005, despite only having 4.1 percent of total employment in 2005.

He was speaking at the inaugural Maritime Lecture and he also touched on various topics, including Singapore's property outlook.

As trade expands, shipping will play an even bigger role. With China and India rising as two huge manufacturing bases, Asians will be major players in maritime industries.

Mr Lee said Singapore intends to be part of that, and to do that, it will have to move from being just a major hub port to an international maritime centre.

When asked about Singapore's recent focus on biomedical sciences, the minister mentor reasoned that the country is placing its bets on both ends of the spectrum. He said: "It's not as glamorous and as sexy as the new biotech pharmaceuticals and all these new discoveries, but as I have said at the beginning, I am of the generation that believes in the basics of life. Singapore exists not because we are a glitzy glamorous place, but because it is a place that works.

"I believe in basics and the rest will look after itself. And this harbour and this maritime cluster is a basic so there must be enough talent dedicated to the continuation of this industry."

Mr Lee was also engaged in a dialogue on various topics including terrorist threats to the maritime industry and the environment. There were also some basic concerns.

One of the other issues that came up during the dialogue was the issue of costs, especially the recent spike in housing costs. Mr Lee assured the audience that this is a temporary situation.

The idea for Singapore was to keep costs lower than other countries which are in a similar situation, so that it remains competitive. MM Lee said: "I think we should be able to manage that because if you look at office rentals, labour costs, costs of transportation etc., we are still competitive against London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. So I believe you have to watch it closely and make sure it doesn't run away and get us into an uncompetitive situation.

"There is a housing shortage at the moment both residential and commercial as a result of the sudden influx of bankers and high-end executives, but I think we can sort it out in two to three years. In the meantime, we are planning the release of some buildings from one use to another to loosen up the market." Mr Lee was speaking to some 300 professionals from the maritime industry. - CNA/so

Straits Times 26 Sep 07
Maritime industry sailing ahead
Maritime sector needs to nurture more talent: MM
Nazry Bahrawi

THE maritime sector here is not a "sunset industry" despite Singapore's venturing into other areas, such as the biomedical sciences.

And the Republic's greatest contribution to this sector is the intellectual input and know-how, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew during a dialogue with about 300 maritime executives at yesterday's Singapore Maritime Lecture at the Fullerton Hotel.

In 2005, shipping accounted for 7.5 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product, even though its contribution to total employment was only 4.1 per cent that same year.

Singapore maritime companies, Mr Lee said, have the ability to co-opt others Bangladeshis, Thais, Indians and others to do the job.

"It is not just doing it in Singapore we got the skills, we got the know-how we then adopt other people's labour and do it there. That is a different kind of future," he told the gathering.

He said Singaporeans in the maritime sector today do not expect to work "out in the open, in the sun, the wind and rain" but rather become naval architects and engineers. This was also true of the other industries.

With regards to the construction sector, Mr Lee jokingly pointed out: "They (Singaporeans) wait until the structure is up then they come in with building equipment inside the building, under cover."

He also cited the example of Changi Airports International having secured a deal to manage Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport last year. On this Changi-Sheremetyevo joint airport venture expected to yield about $110 million in revenue each year Mr Lee said: "So now Changi Airports International is running it, converting it and upgrading it, but (with) Russian labour, Russian support That will be the way to go."

And even though it is looking to develop other growth areas such as the biomedical sciences, Singapore will continue to build talent in the maritime sector.

"It's not as glamorous and as sexy as the new biotech pharmaceuticals ... but ... Singapore exists not because we are a glitzy, glamorous place, but because it is a place that works," he said.

"I believe in basics and the rest will look after itself. And this harbour and this maritime cluster is a basic. So there must be enough talent dedicated to the continuation of this industry."

While he is optimistic about the Singapore maritime industry, Mr Lee cautioned that increased security could slow the flow of trade.

In his speech, he singled out the new requirements for United States-bound containers to be scanned in foreign ports by 2012. This security measure stemmed from concerns that terrorists could be using vessels as bombs, or to transport nuclear fissile material.

Revealing that Singapore is in talks with the US to scan the cargo "right along the line", Mr Lee said: "A balance must be struck between ensuring security and facilitating trade, if we are to preserve the efficiency of shipping and cargo operations, and allow global trade to flourish."

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