Speech by Mr Lam Yi Young, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore On “Environmental Challenges For Shipping and Port Activities” at the Sustainable Marine Transportation Conference 2011

January 18, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Singapore, 17 Jan 2011 – Good afternoon, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to join you at this afternoon’s Sustainable Marine Transportation Conference. I would first like to thank the organisers, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Singapore, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Business Association (Singapore) for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today and to share Singapore’s perspectives on the environmental challenges facing shipping and port activities.

As some of you know, I am a relative newcomer to the maritime industry having been at my current job for less than two years. If someone had asked me two years ago how “green” I think shipping is, the images that would pop to mind, similar I think to many people outside of the maritime industry, would be these: Ship emitting black smoke, Oil spill at sea, Oil covered bird, Beach closed.

Perhaps due to a lack of understanding, shipping is often viewed by the general public as being dirty and polluting, and this is also often reinforced by the images of shipping in the media.

More often than not, when shipping makes the news, it is for the wrong reasons. After all, incidents like ship collisions and oil spills, though far and few between, are newsworthy and attract attention.

While shipping has, without doubt, significant environmental impact, it is also important to view this in the proper perspectives.

First, shipping is the cornerstone of global trade and the life blood of the world’s economy. More than 90% of the world’s trade are carried by ships and the map on the screen shows just how dense the world’s shipping network is.

Shipping affects every aspect of our lives, even though it may not always be apparent. The food we eat, the drinks we drink, the clothes we wear, the energy we consume and the things we use, would have all at some point in the production process involved shipping.

Even locally produced goods would have made use of raw materials, components and equipments sourced from around the world and transported by ships.

The importance of shipping can also be seen from the significant growth in seaborne trade – from just over 8 thousand billion tonne-miles in 1968 to over 32 thousand billion tonne-miles in 2008.

Second, given the need to move cargoes around the world, shipping is the most efficient form of cargo transport in terms of carbon dioxide emission per tonne-kilometre.

As you can see from the chart, trucks emit 3 times more carbon dioxide than cargo ships and aircraft emit some 36 times more.

However, all these do not mean that environmental concerns and challenges are not important for the shipping industry.

On the contrary, environmental challenges are some of the most critical challenges facing the industry today. The size and scale of shipping also often means that shipping has significant environmental impact in absolute terms even if it is comparatively “green”.

The environmental challenges are multi-faceted and these are just some examples. The international maritime community has of course not been sitting idly by and has over the years worked together through the International Maritime Organization (or IMO) to put in place various conventions to deal with these challenges. The work is however an ongoing process and more continues to need to be done.

Let me now move on to talk a bit about Singapore.

As a small island state adjacent to one of the world’s most important maritime passageway – the Straits of Malacca and Singapore – Singapore is acutely aware of the environmental impact of shipping.

Given that the Straits of Malacca and Singapore are estimated to support some one-third of world trade and half of the world’s oil flows, it is not surprising that the Straits are one of the busiest sea lanes in the world.

It has been estimated that in 2007, there were more than 250,000 vessel movements in the narrow Singapore Strait just south of Singapore.

As one of the busiest ports in the world, the Port of Singapore also welcomes some 130,000 vessel calls a year.

And with increasing size of ships, the total Gross Tonnage of ships calling at Singapore has been increasing over the years and has reached 1.92 billion GT last year.

In 2010, the Port of Singapore handled some 500 million tonnes of cargo, including 28.4 million TEUs of container traffic. Bunker sales totalled 40.9 million tonnes, the highest of any port in the world.

So what does this mean for Singapore? Singapore has a total land area of only some 710 square kilometres. This means that our port facilities must coexist in close proximity with homes, offices, factories and recreational facilities.

Our coast lines and our coastal waters are scarce resources that have to be shared for different purposes.

For example, we need to cater for port facilities, anchorage space, waterfront living, marine environment protection, recreation, and so on.

Something that may not be that well known is that Singapore’s waters, despite being home to one of the world’s busiest ports, are also home to over 250 species of hard corals, a quarter of the world’s species. We are also home to 31 true mangrove plant species, which is two-thirds of that found in Asia, and 12 of the 23 Indo-Pacific species of seagrass.

Protecting the marine environment and managing the environmental impact of shipping is thus something that we place priority on, even as we develop our port to meet the needs of our economy.

As Singapore’s maritime administrator and port authority, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (or MPA) works in partnership with the industry and other stakeholders to facilitate environmentally friendly shipping and port activities, and to protect the marine environment.

MPA’s efforts span the national, regional and global levels. Let me touch on each of these in turn, starting at the global level.

Given the international nature of shipping, it is vital that there be international co-operation and international agreements towards meeting the environmental challenges of shipping.

Singapore is thus a firm supporter of the work of the IMO. As a council member of the IMO, Singapore participates actively in IMO’s work in all areas, particularly in meeting environmental challenges.

Singapore’s support of IMO’s work on the environment is evidenced by Singapore being one of the few Asian countries which have acceded to all six Annexes of MARPOL Convention. The MARPOL Convention is the primary IMO instrument for the prevention of pollution from ships. Singapore is also party to other IMO Conventions on environmental protection and we take our obligations and duties under these Conventions very seriously.

Recently, we have also been working closely with other IMO member states to address the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions from ships. We contributed to the development of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI), both measures intended to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Singapore firmly believes that the IMO is the most appropriate body to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from ships and will continue to work with the IMO and its member states to chart the way forward on this issue.

At the regional level, Singapore works with the other littoral states of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, namely Indonesia and Malaysia, through various mechanisms related to environmental protection.

For example, the three littoral states have in place the Revolving Fund, established in 1981 with funding support from the Malacca Strait Council. The littoral states can draw cash advances from the Revolving Fund for use in combating oil pollution caused by ships. The littoral states also co-operate in combating oil pollution under the auspices of the Revolving Fund Committee. These help to ensure swift action in the event of oil spills so as to minimise impact on the environment.

Another key initiative is the Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The Co-operative Mechanism was launched in September 2007 and involves both littoral states and user states of the Straits. We are glad to see that the Co-operative Mechanism has received strong support from many user states.

In Singapore, we have in place various initiatives relating to the environment and MPA works in close partnership with the industry, universities, research institutes and other government agencies. Our efforts can be broadly grouped into 3 areas.

The first relates to understanding the impact and challenges through studies and assessments. For example, MPA conducted a study on air emission from shipping and port activities to gain a better understanding of the impact on ambient air quality.

The second area relates to regulatory measures to ensure compliance with environmental regulations as well as incentives to encourage environmentally responsible and environmentally friendly practices.

The third area is building and preparing for the future. Research and development is a key cornerstone in this area. MPA has in place a $100 million Maritime Innovation and Technology (or MINT) Fund to support maritime research and development, and one of the MINT Fund’s key focus area is clean and green technology.

In 2010 alone, MPA set up three new research programmes to help generate more R&D projects in maritime environment and clean energy.

The first is the $15 million Maritime Clean Energy Research Programme with the Nanyang Technological University, which will focus on finding solutions for Green Port and Green Shipping. Since its launch in February last year, 10 research projects have been approved under the programme.

The second is the MPA-DNV Maritime Environment & Clean Energy Technologies Programme where MPA and DNV will jointly fund projects in collaboration with Institutes of Higher Learning, research centres and the industry.
The third is the $6 million MPA-Temasek Polytechnic Maritime Fuel Cell Research Initiative which aims to seed and encourage projects that will yield improvements and breakthroughs in the use of fuel cell and related technologies in the maritime industry.

Beyond such programmes, MPA has over the years been actively supporting various research and development projects to help find solutions to the environmental challenges facing shipping and port activities. Let me just briefly mention a few examples to give a flavour of the work being done.

The first example is the CSNOx System developed by Ecospec Global Technology, a home grown technology company.

The CSNOx System is an emission abatement system that can remove sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide from ships’ exhaust in a single process.

MPA is supporting the test bedding of the CSNOx System, which is part of the process for the CSNOx System to be type approved by the IMO. The work is still ongoing and the first set of results, as verified by ABS, has been encouraging. The test, conducted onboard a 100,000-tonne oil tanker, showed that the CSNOx System was able to remove 99% of sulphur dioxide, 77% of carbon dioxide and 66% of nitrogen oxides from the ship’s exhaust.

MPA is also supporting the Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering in conducting R&D into biocracking of heavy fuel oil using biological catalysts, such as bacteria, fungi and enzymes, to break down the heavy carbon chains into simpler chains to form distillates. The conventional cracking process utilises high temperature, high pressure, and sometimes expensive catalysts, and in the process emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Researchers are currently developing and optimising the methodology for the culture of micro organisms and the biocracking process.

We also supported researchers from the National University of Singapore in developing a ballast water treatment technology that uses chlorine generated on-site. This technology requires much lower energy and a smaller footprint than currently available systems. The R&D work has been successfully concluded and the researchers have set up a company to commercialise the technology. The technology has also been submitted to IMO for basic approval.

As part of our efforts in promoting environmentally-friendly shipping and to explore alternative fuel sources for ships, MPA has embarked on a joint industry project with DNV Technology Centre to assess the market for LNG as marine fuel.

With its low sulphur content and abundant availability, LNG has the potential to be an environmentally friendly and viable alternative to marine fuel oil and marine gas oil, particularly for short sea hauls.

With the development of an LNG Terminal in Singapore and the push towards cleaner fuel for ships, this project is indeed timely and will help us in evaluating the potential for the development of LNG bunkering services in Singapore.

The topic for today’s conference is thus very timely and I look forward to hearing from the other speakers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the environmental challenges facing the shipping and port industries are indeed plentiful and multi-faceted.

The challenges are complex and require the co-operation, participation and commitment of every member of the international maritime community. We must all play our part.

In so doing, it is important that we strike a balance between protecting the marine environment and facilitating maritime trade which is an essential enabler for the global economy.

MPA, as Singapore’s maritime administrator and port authority, is committed to, and will continue to work in partnership with our local, regional and global partners towards addressing the environmental concerns facing shipping and port activities.

On that note, thank you very much for your attention and I wish you an enjoyable and fruitful afternoon.

Source: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

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