Covid immigration controls heap pressure on Singapore’s shipyards

Immigration restrictions thanks to Covid-19 are heaping pressure on Singapore’s shipyards.

In a trading update yesterday, Sembcorp Marine, one of the republic’s largest shipyard groups, discussed supply chain constraints and a shortage of skilled workers affecting daily operations.

“Foreign workers who left Singapore over the past year could not return due to ongoing border controls in countries such as India and Bangladesh,” Sembcorp Marine stated.

Singapore has recently upped its own border protocols to most people with a recent travel history to South Asia, something that is also having a significant knock-on effect for crew changes at the key Southeast Asian hub port.

Sembcorp Marine also pointed out that the improving Singapore economy has led to increased competition for foreign labour already on the island, resulting in attrition of labour to competing industries.

“The shortage of skilled workers has impacted the execution and scheduled completion of some of our projects,” Sembcorp Marine admitted.

On the short-term outlook Sembcorp Marine stated: “With the re-introduction of COVID-19 measures in recent weeks, including tighter border controls, the Group’s operations could be further impacted by workforce supply and quarantine restraints. Current and future restrictions on travel and transportation could also disrupt global supply chains. Resolving the skilled manpower shortage on a timely basis is the Group’s key priority to address the risk of project delays or terminations.”

Other yards in Singapore are similarly reliant on overseas workers. Covid clusters at yards in Singapore have been reported on a number of occasions over the past 13 months.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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