The Singapore Registry of Ships (SRS) crossed the 96 million gross tonnage milestone in 2020 and maintained its position among the top five ship registries in the world. Themed “Resilience, Strength and Adaptability”, the 2020 SRS Forum, organized by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), focused on how owners, managers, and operators of Singapore-flagged ships can tap on opportunities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, in areas such as digitalization and decarbonization. The SRS Milestone Award was presented to the Schulte Group at the forum for crossing this milestone.
The virtual forum gathered 270 participants, comprising industry stakeholders such as ship owners, managers, operators, and classification societies. Speakers from Bureau Veritas and the MPA’s Shipping Division shared their expertise and insights on conducting remote surveys and inspections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as lessons learnt from MPA’s investigations of marine casualties and incidents.
Speaking at the opening address, Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of MPA, said, “While the pandemic has thrown Maritime Singapore many challenges, it also presented us with opportunities to emerge stronger. To do this, MPA will strengthen partnerships to drive digitalisation and decarbonisation of shipping and ensure that the Singapore Registry of Ships is adaptable and agile in the new normal. MPA will also continue supporting our seafarers, the backbone of the maritime industry, through the pandemic.”
Adoption of technology
COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology. To minimise the risk to crews and surveyors on ships, MPA has been carrying out remote inspections since June this year. To date, MPA’s surveyors have conducted 128 remote Flag State and Port State inspections involving 74 companies.
MPA also collaborated with Recognised Organisations (classification societies authorised by MPA to perform statutory certification and survey services for Singapore-flagged ships) to conduct surveys and audits using remote technologies. This includes the inspection of ship equipment via video streaming platforms, and verification of documents sent electronically.
Additionally, MPA has carried out close to 250 oral examinations for Certificate of Competency deck and engine candidates through video conferencing since April.
Decarbonization for shipping
The pandemic has also demonstrated shipping’s importance as a reliable, efficient and cost-effective method of transporting goods. Partnering the industry to drive decarbonization efforts, MPA will extend its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Global Compact Network Singapore, the local chapter of the United Nations Global Compact, by an additional three years to 2023. This is to promote carbon management and awareness amongst maritime companies. The MoU was first signed in 2017 to provide companies with training on sustainability reporting.
MPA also presented Green Ship certificates to 15 companies under the Green Ship Programme (GSP) for reducing the environmental impact of their fleet. Since the GSP’s inception in 2011, 597 Singapore-flagged ships have joined the programme.
Supporting seafarers through the pandemic
During this pandemic, seafarers face crew change restrictions due to border control measures. Since 27 March 2020, MPA has facilitated crew change in Singapore for more than 50,000 sign-on and sign-off crew of all nationalities from ships of different flags involving more than 2,900 companies and 3,500 ships, through a set of ‘safe corridor’ procedures. The procedures minimise risk to public health for the local community, ships and crew involved.
Depending on the COVID-19 situation, MPA expects to conduct some 500 to 600 crew changes per day in the coming months.
For Singapore-flagged ships, 99% of crew onboard are employed within their service contract period. MPA will continue to work closely with ship operators to repatriate the remaining 1% of crew who are still working onboard on extended contracts.
MPA presented during the SRS Forum, the Crew Change Champion awards to ship agents, ship owners, and member organisations of the Singapore Crew Change Workgroup for their contributions to Singapore’s crew change efforts.