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27 Dec 2021
12 mins
General Secretary Message 2022

Because of You, SMOU will go BEYOND

“This is not the time to hold back. This is the time to do more and serve more to impact more lives especially when the Union is in the position to do so,” Sister Mary Liew, SMOU General Secretary, told SeaVoices.

“This posture of the heart of SMOU is always to improve the lives of our members and their families and the seafarers. This is the reason of the Union’s existence for the past 70 years and that’s not going to change.”

Even before the year ends, the Union is bubbling with practical, timely and relevant initiatives for 2022!

- 7 Great Initiatives of Going Beyond -

1. Because we hear you,

…the popular 70th Anniversary 4-course $7 Monthly set lunch for members will be extended to 2022

More than 2500 set lunches were dished out at $7 per meal for members in 2021. Due to the overwhelming response, SMOU is offering this all-time favourite benefit for another year.

…MPA / SMOU Seafarers Relief Package will be extended for the first half of 2022

In support of our seafarers, MPA and SMOU will be extending the Seafarers Relief Package to lighten financial burdens, especially when job placements are affected.

…free stay at ACC for seagoing members will be extended to 2022

To say a big thank you for sailing and working at the frontline, SMOU is extending its free staycation at Aranda Country Club to members who return from sailing for one more year.

…meal delivery for seafarers serving their isolation period will be extended to 2022

Over 500 bento meals from Lighthouse Bistro were delivered to more than 130 seafaring members in 2021 while they served their isolation period before signing on, and after signing off ships. To continue showing our support for our seafaring members, SMOU will extend this benefit to 2022.

2. Because your employability and employment matters,

…SMOU joins NTUC in incentivising members to train anytime anywhere with LXP’s suite of over 75,000 courses

To encourage SMOU members towards lifelong learning, SMOU will incentivise members with $50 Lighthouse vouchers when they successfully sign up for the NTUC LearningHub’s Learning eXperience Platform (LXP). The one-stop learning solution platform which offers a suite of over 75,000 courses for members to upskill and re-skill.

Members can enjoy at a subsidised subscription fee of $60/ year, after funding from NTUC LHUB and training benefits from NTUC’s Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP). At the same time, members can also use their SkillsFuture credits to make the balance payment of the annual subscription! On top of that, SMOU will come onboard to offer $50 Lighthouse voucher to incentivise members to sign-up for this learning platform.

SMOU is also looking into extending the SMOU 70th Anniversary Training Incentive to further encourage SMOU members to upskill themselves and continue sailing in 2022.

…job seekers get a helping hand

“Having a job is still the best welfare,” Sister Mary underscored. SMOU is augmenting its employment register by creating a Telegram group for members to gain instant access to real time information on jobs availability.

Members can look forward to more courses that equip them on job interview skills and writing an engaging CV.

3. Because we care about your well-being,

…members’ mental health will be a priority

2022 will be a year where members’ mental health and wellness will gain traction as SMOU’s priority.

“While organising wellness talks and activities is a good start in building awareness, we want to go beyond by having a more concerted effort in promoting good mental health. With the pandemic, more people from different age groups are experiencing mental stress. We can’t turn a blind eye and not prioritise mental health education and access,” Sister Mary said.

4. Because of building the Singapore Core,

…SMOU takes steps to stay innovative

To step up on building a strong Singapore core, SMOU is working alongside its tripartite partners to harness the recruitment and retention of quality officers via the Operation and Technology Roadmap (OTR), along with Company Training Committees (CTCs).

“The OTR, with consultants from A*Star, will enable our members to be future ready. The maritime sector opens up many good job opportunities. The path to identify career progression and skills matching is an exciting one and we want to work with our shipping companies so that members can ride on it,” highlighted Sister Mary.

Technology is ever evolving. In the pipeline is the upgrading of the simulator at Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI) to one that is 360 degree immersive full bridge simulator.

SMOU and Wavelink will continue to take strategic steps to stay sustainable and relevant.

5. Because of growing with you,

…SMOU builds on the Building Dream

This is an open secret. SMOU is dreaming of owning a building big enough to house the Wavelink Group, including the Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI) and a range of facilities to meet the extensive needs of the members. The concept of sustainability will weave right through this all under one ‘family home’ roof where one can perhaps explore vertical gardening, and other engaging activities that can keep active and stimulate the minds of our senior members.

6. Because we are family,

…a cruise is in the pipeline

As no overseas trips were organised for SMOU members during SMOU’s 70th Anniversary in year 2021, the Union is organising a School holiday trip in March 2022 for members and families. The cruise will be heavily subsidised and we hope to be able to see all our members in person again. The event will comply with the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and regulations.

7. Because the celebration continues,

…a Gala Dinner onsite is in sight

A big 70th Anniversary bash was planned…and dashed when the pandemic hit. The celebration had to go virtual on 27th November 2021. SMOU hopes to stage the 70th Anniversary gala dinner onsite and in person in the last quarter of 2022 to appreciate members for the seven decades of commitment and support to the Union.

“The Anniversary gala dinner will celebrate the progress of SMOU and the unity of going confidently beyond 70!” Sister Mary highlighted.

SMOU will continue to engage the ground and connect with local and international members through various initiatives like Fireside Chats with our local seafarers, and virtual webinars and workshops with our members. We will continue to build open communication channels with our members, so that SMOU can do more.

Because of You…

“We stay rooted in our core values and held on ever so tightly to doing what is right for our members. We stay committed to grow the tripartite relationship strong and progressive.

We remain committed to champion seafarers’ interests and add value to the maritime community and beyond. That is how we celebrated our 70th Anniversary – by being true to our mission and vision.”

SMOU General Secretary Sister Mary Liew said this to SeaVoices.

The theme of the anniversary, Because of You, encompasses the motivating force behind every initiative SMOU spearheaded. Here we highlight 7 ways in which the Union commemorated its 70th Anniversary.

Because of You

1. …We Champion

Crew Change

“Our tripartite partners – Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) – along with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliates, worked together with SMOU to relentlessly press for seafarers to be recognised as crucial frontline workers. Our skin grew a few inches thicker when we unashamedly pushed for crew change and vaccination protocol to be made more accessible, practical and streamlined without compromising on safety. It can be done. I am glad that our tripartite partners aligned on this very basic matter—seafarers are essential workers who keep the global supply chain moving, and our actions must reveal that.”

SMOU is humbled and honoured to have worked with the tripartite team, and subsequently receive the Ministry of Transport Minister’s Innovation Award for the Singapore Crew Change Framework and Guidebook.

As part of its 70th Anniversary, SMOU set aside $200,000 of welfare funding to acknowledge and thank seafarers for their work, and partook in many other initiatives concerning the welfare and mental health for seafarers.

2. …We Protect

Crew Vaccination

The Singapore’s Sea Crew Vaccination (SEAVAX) initiative, launched in August 2021, progressed from offering inoculation only to non-resident foreign seafarers who have stayed in Singapore for more than 30 days into an effort reaching out to international ocean-going seafarers signing on from the Singapore Port.

The vaccination exercise is undertaken by the Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (STAR) Taskforce and is possible with the support of tripartite partners, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Sister Mary described this initiative as “an important step in the right direction” for seafarers who have been subjected to difficulty with receiving the vaccines due to the nature of their work. With vaccination, we can protect our seafarers, and they can fulfil their responsibilities with a peace of mind, and return home safely.

3. …We Uplift

Mental Health a Big Concern

Seafarers’ mental health is a major concern for SMOU. Seafarers have been facing unprecedented pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite their vital role as key workers for the global supply chain.

Together with Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI), SMOU kicked off a series of webinars on mental wellness for seafarers. In collaboration with Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) and Maritime Union of India (MUI), more than 1200 international seafarers have picked up useful tools on maintaining resilient mental health and helping their peers to do so too.

Heart-to-heart conversations with seafarers to understand their struggles out at sea took place over Fireside Chats organised by Young SMOU. SMOU officials were all ears and extended helping hands when seafaring officers and cadets from various companies share some of their ongoing challenges.

Mental health wellness workshops were also organised for local members to learn about self-care strategies and how to befriend the new norm with new perspectives. During such sessions, resources and helplines for anyone struggling psychologically were made known.

4. …We Connect

Kopi sessions and webinars

SMOU continued to build deep connections with shipping companies in 2021 through online kopi sessions and webinars.

Informative webinars on topics ranging from “preventing maritime loss & personal injury insights” to “creating a safety culture for safer workplaces onboard ships” brought attendees from CBA companies under one screen to exchange ideas and experiences.

5. …We Celebrate

Anniversary Events

The 70th anniversary celebration must go on and it did —all year round. 

“I would like to appreciate and recognise our SMOU Exco and staff for their hard work in the past year. It is very challenging for the Exco and the staff to organise activities and events in the ever-changing environment. We have to think out of the box quickly and do things creatively. We worked together to reach out to as many members especially when we know many are facing a hard time,” said Sister Mary.

The Union created opportunities for family ties to be strengthened. Over 1700 members, together with their families, met and celebrated the year-end 70th Anniversary event virtually with a feast delivered personally to their doorsteps.

The free and easy family day saw 4,000 members and their families bonding at the Universal Studios Singapore. The virtual National Day celebration in the comfort of their homes also added to the merriment of some 900 members.

At the SMOU Bursary and Scholarship event, the members’ children’s achievements and academic pursuit were celebrated with much pride and applause.

The host of goodies included the value for money 70th Anniversary 4-course $7 Monthly set lunch at Lighthouse Bistro; complimentary stay for seafarers, and subsidised staycation for members; special whole birthday cakes for members; and more.

In the month of March, SMOU also celebrated its 70th Birthday with members at the Lighthouse Bistro. Many other events were planned around the year to celebrate the Union’s 70th Anniversary.

6. …We Care and Share

7 Acts

7 Acts were performed to bring home the message that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. Members young and old stepped forward to volunteer and pay it forward.

Acts of hope ranged from a clothes donation drive, to blessing the fishermen at the Jurong Fishery Port, to organising the SMOU back to school bazaar to care for the young; from distributing daily necessities and bento meals to the seniors at the Henderson Home and community living at Jalan Besar to giving more than 2200 care packs throughout the whole year, some with thank you cards drawn by children from My First Skool.

7. …We Build

Skills and Competencies

The SMOU Training Incentive was launched to underscore the importance of training and encourage more Singaporeans to upgrade themselves, stay relevant, and continue sailing. SMOU members stand to receive a $700 cash incentive for fulfilling the training criteria; the “Achievement” incentive – Open to members (Singaporeans and PRs) who obtain their first, or upgrade themselves to a higher Certificate of Competency in 2021; and the “Revalidation” incentive – Open to members (Singaporeans and PRs) who revalidate their Certificate of Competency in the year 2020/2021.

A wide range of short courses on financial planning, digital skills, mental wellness and awareness of online scams was also conducted. Other courses to enhance the employability of SMOU members included ‘Maritime Cyber Security Programme’ and more.

On top of all the good work to commemorate the Union’s 70th anniversary, SMOU continued to sign collective bargaining agreements with shipping companies, assist seafarers in distress in the pandemic round the clock and fly the Singapore flag high at international forums.

The Union also assisted crew of Panama Flag vessel recover US$567,000 of owed wages.

“Because of You, SMOU has the heart, resources and capability to impact the lives of our members, community and seafarers locally and globally!”

2022 is going to be another challenging but exciting year for SMOU, and I believe that together, we will be able to sail through any storm. I wish all of our SMOU Exco and members, tripartite partners, Sisters and Brothers from the Labour Movement, and the shipping community a happy New Year. Stay safe and healthy. SMOU is here for you, always.