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05 Jun 2023
4 mins
Giving a Voice to Seafarers, Unions and the Singapore Maritime Core

SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew gave a voice to seafarers, Unions and the Singapore Maritime Core at the Maritime Manpower Forum organised by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

Ms Liew was among the key Singapore and international maritime industry experts and thoughts leaders, who included Ms Caroline Yang, President of Singapore Shipping Association, gathered at the Forum, as part of the Singapore Maritime Week held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on 28 April 2023, to delve into the overarching theme on ‘Creating a Pathway towards a Future-ready Maritime Manpower’.

During the conversation on Emerging Skills and Future Jobs within the Maritime Industry, Ms Liew highlighted that Unions can play a vital role in working alongside shipping companies to reach their strategic goals and vision.

“What is the future plan of the company? What are your training needs? How can we help our companies and seafarers reach the final destination? Let’s collaborate and communicate,” she said.

Ms Liew pointed out that SMOU has been advocating to seafarers the importance of a lifelong learning mindset. “Because at the end of the day, I believe that’s the best welfare for workers — to stay employable and nobody will be left behind”.

She spoke about how the company training committee (CTC), championed by NTUC, has set up more than 1300 committees to develop transformation plans to ensure workers remains future-ready. For the shipping companies, SMOU can also give feedback from the ground and rally the seafarers to cultivate a growth mindset.

On building the Singapore Core, while SMOU supports the Ministry of Manpower’s Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), she shared that our nation will still need to build up a strong Singapore core as an International Maritime Centre (IMC).

“I’m not asking for big numbers here. But just a core group. Let’s work together towards that and give our Singaporean seafarers and those in maritime, a chance and opportunity to experience life ashore — working in the office with the management,” Ms Liew appealed.

One way is to give exposure for Singapore seafarers to work ashore for a short period when they are in between sailings.

From Left to Right (L-R): Mr Nick Potter, Mr Praveen C.S, Ms Caroline Yang, Ms Mary Liew, Mr Richard Koh, and Mr Nick Bizic

“When they go back to sailing, they know exactly why certain decisions are made in a certain way. It is very important to excite and inspire them. We all have a responsibility to help them transit from sea to shore because we don’t want to lose any Singapore seafarer who may not be sailing for the rest of their life,” Ms Liew added. 

In her speech, Ms Liew also made reference to Richard Clayton’s article on “Getting the best talent for shipping means telling a good story” and urged the many former seafarers who are today’s top management in the maritime community to share their stories and inspire our young seafarers.

From Left to Right (L-R): Ms Ajanksha Batura Pai, Ms Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Dr Kenneth Low, Ms Lu Hui Ting, Mr Aaron Chan, and Mr Punit Oza

In panel dialogue which focused on the “Future Talents of Maritime — Conversation between Youths & Industry” saw Ms Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University, calling on seafarers to pursue their Masters and PhD as it helps prepare the younger seafarers with the skills. She described the maritime industry as “indispensable” and how dynamic a career is in maritime.

Chief Officer of CMA CGM Aaron Chan, is also a SMOU member of 5 years

The conversation also had SMOU member Aaron Chan, Chief Officer from CMA CGM, urging  employers to build trust with the families of seafarers and assure them that safety of their loved ones is of utmost importance. This is one way to build a stronger Singapore core, he pointed out.