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08 Jan 2021
11 mins
General Secretary Message 2021

“2020 has been an unusual and challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing drastic changes to how we work, live and play. We saw a different world where everyone had to adapt to new rules and new lifestyles within a very short period of time. Thank you for keeping the global supply chain moving as our nation continues to persevere in this battle.

As we enter into the new year of 2021, I would like to wish all our members good health and a blessed New Year!”


When the full impact of the pandemic hit our shores, SMOU went back to the drawing board to find ways to turn the crisis at hand into opportunities to help our members.

One of the biggest concerns we encountered all around the world was the issue on crew change. Many seafaring members were physically and mentally impacted as they continued to work beyond their contractual periods on board ships. Being unable to return home to their loved ones and family also exacerbated their psychological states as the days went by. Seafarers who were ashore also faced uncertainty, with their livelihood on the line as they waited anxiously to join ships to support their families.

SMOU swung into action by engaging our CBA shipping companies on crew change, and joined our maritime tripartite partners Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) and Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) to respond to the situation.

  1. Tripartite partners formed the Singapore Crew Change Work Group (SGCCWG) to set up infrastructure and formulate a guidebook that detailed steps to implement safe crew change in Singapore. This enabled Singapore to assist around 78,000 crew change of seafarers at the Singapore port by the end of 2020.

2. To help seafarers to do safe crew change in and beyond Singapore, SMOU contributed S$250,000 to the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-STAR) Fund with other local tripartite partners, as well as other international organisations – International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). This initiative is also supported by the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization. By December 2020, various port authorities around the world and international organisations joined in the support of the SG-STAR fund. Through this fund, we have been able to reach out to the region to further bolster crew change efforts by channelling resources upstream to seafarer supplying nations.

Today, the Port of Singapore facilitates about 600 crew change daily, a remarkable increase from just 100 in mid-2020.

3. To help our seafaring members who were unable to earn their keep due to the difficulty of signing on ships, SMOU partnered with MPA and has so far processed over 80 applications with a total amount of about S$80,000 under the Seafarers’ Relief Package

4. The NTUC/SMOU COVID-19 Care Fund too has processed over 200 members’ applications disbursing over S$100,000 in funding to help our members during this difficult time.

5. We helped to facilitate employment for our members when opportunities to sign on ships were hard to come by due to crew change challenges. Our Young SMOU team engaged seafarers by linking them up with alternative job placements through channels like Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to get through these trying times.

6. Bento set meals were prepared and delivered to seafaring members who signed off from ships and had to serve their stay-home notice periods in isolation. The meals, prepared by Lighthouse Bistro, were delivered to the doorstep of their designated stay-home facility during their quarantine.

7. SMOU also joined international unions to acknowledge our seafarers as key workers and recognise the essential work that they contribute to the global supply chain so that crew change can be conducted at more ports around the world. By forming safe scalable corridors for crew change in our region, we hope to expand this to a wider international scale.


Despite restrictions preventing some of our regular training to be conducted, SMOU together with our training partner, Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI), turned to the digital platform and trained over 1,300 Officers, Cadets and Maritime Professionals in 2020. Various online training courses including topics on cyber security and mental health were also rolled out for the maritime community.

Engaging shipping companies – During the pandemic, SMOU engaged our CBA companies over the virtual platform to help them navigate issues and challenges with crew change.

Together with WMI, we conducted webinars with shipping management companies, governmental maritime administrations and manning agencies by sharing with them technology and facilities that would play a big role in crew change procedures done in Singapore.

Singapore Core – We continue to build the Singapore core with both our Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) and Tripartite Engineering Training Award (TETA) programmes, conducting training with a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face lessons. Our heartfelt congratulations to cadets as we witnessed the graduation of the 18th batch of 13 TNTA cadets, and the 5th batch of 7 TETA cadets in 2020.

Both programmes have trained over 400 cadets producing more than 70 officers for the Singapore maritime core.

Senior Members – To help our Senior members, SMOU organised workshops such as the Lasting Power of Attorney and the Zoom and Social Media workshops to equip our members with skills and information that will be helpful to them during this period.


At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak when masks and essential items were scarce, we seized the opportunity to do good! The SMOU EXCO, together with our youth volunteers from Young SMOU, rallied to put together more than 3,000 care packs for  essential workers to protect them from the virus while they serve.

The packs helped various groups of people including our seafarers, workers at the frontline, our SMOU-adopted Henderson Home and My First Skool Jalan Sultan Centre, NTUC Health Homes, Senior members, and CBA companies. Lighthouse Bistro also prepared Bento sets for workers at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 to support them as they combat the effects of the outbreak.


Despite the gloom of the pandemic, we did not forget you – our SMOU members who have given us your confidence and support.

BECAUSE OF YOU, we were able to represent our seafarers in such a trying time, and persevere in doing good for the maritime community and beyond. Therefore, SMOU innovated and continued to extend services such as Lighthouse Bistro set meals that were delivered island-wide to members’ homes during the circuit breaker period.

Also, when Singapore progressed through the phases of the economy’s reopening, SMOU gradually resumed our regular membership services in a safe manner. We managed to organise virtual events such as the National Day Family Connection to bond with members and families, and the Annual Bursary and Scholarship Awards ceremony to encourage members’ children to continue the journey of learning.

Where SMOU would organise yearly outings for members, this year we provided heavily subsidised movie tickets, zoo tickets and tickets to the S.E.A. Aquarium in their place for members to enjoy the activities with their family. Our senior citizen event also took the form of a staycation at the Resorts World Singapore this year.

To launch our 70th Anniversary year, we also organised a virtual Year End Get-Together event in November where we included the Long Membership Awards ceremony to honour and thank our long-standing members for their support.

Your wellbeing will remain as a top priority for us, and we will continue to find ways to cater to the needs and interests of members, while observing the necessary safety guidelines to protect you and your loved ones.

Connecting with You – 2020 has also pushed many of SMOU’s engagements onto a virtual platform. We are glad that we made the strategic move at the start of last year to move the SeaVoices bi-monthly newsletter online. I am encouraged to see more readers getting accustomed to the digital SeaVoices platform.

To bring SMOU closer to you, we launched our very own ‘MySMOU’ mobile application at the end of 2020. The application provides a myriad of SMOU-related services at your fingertips!



As we move forward into 2021, I want to encourage everyone to stay vigilant. While we navigate this new norm with caution, we will commemorate our 70th Anniversary year together with you as an important milestone in SMOU’s history. With the support of our SMOU Executive Committee and staff, we have put together the following programmes for you.

  1. S$70 Gift For You – We will be extending a special gift for you containing S$50 worth of FairPrice vouchers and S$20 worth of Lighthouse Bistro vouchers as a token of appreciation for your years of support.
  2. S$70 Lunar New Year Hong Bao for all our Senior members* residing in Singapore – Every year, SMOU distributes around 450 hong bao to Senior members, but we are happy to announce that this year SMOU will focus our resources to appreciate and give back directly to Senior members– almost 1,000 Senior members will be receiving the hong bao.


    *SMOU member for at least 5 years and aged 62 and above

3. S$7 Monthly Special set lunch at Lighthouse Bistro for members – Members can enjoy the heavily subsidised members’ monthly special set lunch at the cosy setting of Lighthouse Bistro at only S$7 to thank you for your support across the past 7 decades.

4. Annual Family Day @ Universal Studio Singapore for a day of family fun and bonding between you and your loved ones!

5. New 45 and 50 years Long Membership Awards – Our heartfelt and deep appreciation for members who have supported us since our early years. To express our gratitude, we will be introducing the 45 and 50 years long membership awards categories to acknowledge your long-standing membership with us! Because of You, SMOU is where we are today – thank you!

6. $300,000 set aside for Welfare Reimbursement for CBA ships – As a way to express our heartfelt gratitude to our seafarers who have supported the global supply chain during the pandemic, SMOU set aside S$300,000 for welfare reimbursement for seafarers on board CBA ships. This is to encourage companies to organise onboard welfare activities for their crew as an appreciation for their invaluable contribution.

7. Youth Maritime E-Forum – To further engage the youth, Young SMOU will be organising an e-forum in May, a platform where industry experts can inspire the Youths with their exciting maritime experiences and stories.

8. Lifelong Learning to move ahead – SMOU will strengthen our efforts to work with training partners to provide training to benefit and enhance employability of members in the maritime industry and the international maritime community. We will also continue to work with shipping companies to form Company Training Committees to help seafarers remain relevant, and add value to the maritime industry. Lastly, learning opportunities will be created for Senior members to be equipped with digital skills to help them keep up with technology and navigate the digital landscape.

9. Sail Because of You – As the pandemic has prolonged effects on our seafarers, SMOU will also continue to show support for our key workers by running a fundraiser “Sail Because of You”. SMOU will contribute S$1 for every 7 nautical miles sailed by registered seafaring members of up to S$170,000 to each of the two beneficiary institutes – the Mission to Seafarers Singapore and NTUC Health.

10. 7 Acts of Corporate Social Responsibility – In our significant year, we want to put our core value of ‘Caring and Sharing’ into action. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, we want to remember the less fortunate and needy. SMOU will be embarking on giving back to the community with 7 Acts of corporate social responsibility initiatives across 2021. The seven ‘acts’ will see SMOU volunteering and contributing to organisations that will benefit our adopted homes, senior citizens, migrant workers and seafarers across the year.

As we move into 2021, SMOU will focus on Protection, Training & Employment, and Welfare.

On protection, we will work with MPA to ensure that vaccines will be prioritised for our local maritime workers.

On training & employment, we will continue in close partnership with our tripartite and training partners to upskill and improve employability of our members.

On welfare, we will encompass our ‘Care and Share’ core value in all that we do, and further extend our helping hand to members of SMOU and the community who are in need.

We may have hurdles ahead of us, but I am confident that when we stand together united, we can overcome anything Because of You.

Stay tuned for updates on the events that we have planned for you on or our mobile application – ‘MySMOU’.