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Building a maritime legacy in the age of digital transformation

Andreas Sohmen-Pao, the head of the BW Group and chairman of the Singapore Maritime Foundation, shares his views on what it will take to remain a vibrant shipping hub in the future.

Singapore has grand ambitions when it comes to building on the legacy as a maritime nation.

The new Tuas mega port, earmarked as the centrepiece of Singapore’s Next Generation Port vision, is being built to achieve a large increase in capacity together with the latest technology: automated yard cranes and port equipment, drones to deliver goods and inspect equipment, and a host of other productivity innovations. Alongside the International Maritime Centre (IMC) 2030 Strategic Review which outlines the vision for Singapore to be the global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent, the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM) was conceptualised with the aim of producing a value-add of S$4.5bn and growing the sector with 5,000 good jobs by the year 2025.

In preparation for this growth, Singapore realises that empowering and training a future-ready workforce for an industry in transformation is essential to future success.

The evolution of seaborne trade and technology have increased the need to complement traditional manpower with digitalisation.

Employers recognise that the demands of current maritime roles are shifting, and are on the lookout for a wider range of skill sets – covering both maritime-related skills and expertise from adjacent industries such as finance and IT. Maritime companies have also indicated that employees with cross-disciplinary leadership skills in areas such as data analytics, green shipping, and automation are in good stead to assist with the industry’s digital transformation.

Ranked as the top maritime centre of the world in the past few years, the move towards a digitally driven maritime industry now calls for talent with relevant skills to join this dynamic sector.

The industry needs to address misperceptions about what a career in maritime can involve. For example, some may think that joining the maritime industry requires taking up a seafaring career, not knowing that there are many shore-based careers to consider, from ship management, law, finance, and insurance to broking and surveying. At the same time, qualities and experiences gained at sea are also readily transferable to some shore-based jobs which may require seafaring experience.

Employers might also observe a mismatch of skills required compared to the current capabilities of the maritime workforce. The breadth of technical competencies required in operations is expanding to include automation, while softer skills such as interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills rank high on the list of hiring managers.

Other valuable and relevant attributes now include having a strong sense of curiosity, empathy and awareness of one’s environment.

Substantial efforts from the public and private sectors are already under way through partnerships, training programmes and initiatives to develop a pipeline of human capital for the maritime industry.

To support the industry’s talent attraction efforts, the Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office, a unit under the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), actively partners maritime employers, industry associations, schools and government agencies to connect students and jobseekers on all things maritime for students and jobseekers. It offers maritime-related education and career guidance, links the industry with schools for internship and job opportunities, and organises outreach events and publicity campaigns.

In the recent MSC Maritime Careers Workshop this year, the team provided a platform for graduates across disciplines to connect with leading employers in port, shipping and maritime services, as well as to understand the diverse roles across the sectors and qualities that employers were on the lookout for. The team also organised the Maritime D/coded Tour in partnership with Jurong Port and PSA, to interest students from diverse fields of study, particularly those from courses relating to analytics, information security, and information systems. The tour brought students closer to the ports and provided them with insights about their career opportunities in the maritime industry through the personal sharing of data analytics and information security professionals from Jurong Port and PSA.

Besides raising awareness on maritime careers, the MSC website ( was also set up as a one-stop portal for maritime-related information. It was launched in July 2017 to connect the government, schools, industry and training service providers on a single platform to provide students and jobseekers with information on all things maritime. It also serves as a resume depository for individuals and maritime companies in Singapore to explore opportunities for internships or full-time jobs.

Company efforts to develop manpower are sustained by support from the Government, unions and associations. The government and associations such as MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) provide workshops and training programmes to ensure mid-career switchers are equipped with sufficient skills and knowledge to enter the industry. These courses are funded by the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF), which also provides subsidies for interested participants.

Singapore also continues to deepen the maritime clusters within the industry by expanding networks and opening new channels for collaboration. We have developed a global maritime hub that encourages maritime businesses and multinational corporations, to set up head offices and lead projects here.

The creation of a conducive environment for research and development to help maritime firms adopt technology and improve the efficiency of their business processes has also been crucial to setting the stage for a vibrant ecosystem.

Labs such as the PSA Living Lab and the MPA Living Lab enable firms to test-bed new systems under actual operating conditions. Accelerators such as MPA’s ‘Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined at BLOCK71’ (PIER71) and the Smart Port Challenge create tangible opportunities for the industry and help organisations harness technology effectively for their needs, creating an innovative ecosystem that is encouraged by the community.

With over 5,000 maritime establishments and 170,000 professionals contributing to 7% of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP), career opportunities are abundant for young jobseekers and those in mid-career looking for new challenges.

The industry continues to grow a strong pipeline of talent to develop Singapore as a leading IMC and we welcome jobseekers to join us in uncovering Maritime Singapore’s exciting future.


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