MPA Singapore unveils S$27M maritime support package
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) revealed it would provide further financial support to the maritime industry in the wake of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
As informed, the MaritimeSG Together Package will take effect from 1 May 2020. This is on top of previous measures announced by the country’s government.
The aid package, amounting to about S$27 million (US$19.2 million), will provide financial support to companies, financial support to individuals for training as well as financial and employment support to Singaporean seafarers.
The maritime sector is key to Singapore’s economy. Sea trade, which accounts for over 80 per cent of global trade, is particularly important during this time to ensure the flow of essential goods including food and medicine.
“The effect of global supply chain disruption is increasingly being felt by the shipping industry. It is timely that more support be offered to the industry. While every crisis brings uncertainty, it also brings opportunity,” Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of MPA, commented.
“The MaritimeSG Together Package aims to provide targeted support for the maritime companies, individuals, and seafarers. They have been working tirelessly to keep our ports open and cargoes going.”
“Besides showing our appreciation for them, MPA also hopes to take this opportunity to accelerate the transformation of Maritime Singapore for the future. I am confident that this will better position Maritime Singapore for the new normal post COVID-19,” MPA Chief Executive added.
Support for maritime companies and individuals
To help vessel owners and operators of cargo vessels, MPA will provide a 30 per cent port dues concession for cargo vessels from 1 May to 31 December 2020. MPA will also grant a 30 per cent port dues concession for all non-passenger-carrying harbourcraft in the Port of Singapore over the same period.
MPA earlier announced a 35 per cent rebate to regional ferry operators to offset their monthly rental fees for overnight berthing of vessels and counter rental at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal for three months starting March 2020. With effect from 1 May 2020, MPA will increase this support to 50 per cent until 31 December 2020.
Moreover, in order to strengthen longer-term capabilities, MPA will introduce new manpower schemes and increase the co-funding provided under selected Maritime Cluster Fund programmes, from 1 May to 31 December 2020.
A new Maritime Cluster Fund-Internship Reimbursement Scheme will help maritime companies continue to provide students who are Singaporeans or Singapore Permanent Residents with internship opportunities. MPA will co-fund 50 per cent of the internship allowance paid by maritime companies, capped at S$500 per month per intern, for up to a maximum period of six months.
MPA will also increase its co-funding support under selected Maritime Cluster Fund schemes to up to 90 per cent. These measures seek to encourage upskilling and further support maritime companies in their digital transformation efforts during this period, according to MPA.
MPA recognises that maritime companies may face challenges in managing their cash flows and meeting their financial obligations. Therefore, MPA said it would exercise flexibility in credit management measures from 1 May to 31 December 2020.
Support for seafarers
During the pandemic, seafarers are faced with uncertainty due to increased border control measures and crew change restrictions. MPA has been facilitating the return of Singaporean seafarers who wish to sign off when their ships call at Singapore.
To support Singaporean seafarers, MPA and the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) will roll out the Seafarers Relief Package for eligible seafarers who are unable to secure shipboard employment between 1 May to 31 July 2020. They can apply to receive up to S$800 per month in financial assistance.
What is more, in order to encourage Singaporeans to continue to pursue their career advancements, MPA, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), SMOU, and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) are jointly providing S$10,000 to eligible Certificate of Competency Class 1 (COC 1) holders who can accumulate at least six months of sea experience as Chief Officers or Second Engineers from January to December 2020.
To enable the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) cadets to complete their diploma and obtain their Certificate of Competencies (CoC) as scheduled despite disruptions to their shipboard training, MPA and SMA will exercise flexibility on the curriculum requirements and put in place alternative arrangements such as carrying out classroom trainings online and deferring shipboard training. MPA has also started to carry out oral examinations via video-conferencing for seafarer candidates so as not to hold up the advancement of their careers.
Finally, MPA will continue to partner seafarer welfare associations to providing for the needs of seafarers onboard ships calling at Singapore. MPA will provide a one-off increase of S$50,000 to its annual contribution of S$150,000 to the seafarer missions in May 2020. The annual grant supports a wide range of welfare services for seafarers including free counselling services and pastoral care which are both available online.