SMOU 70th anniversary celebration reached a rousing crescendo at the gala dinner where 1,200 local members, tripartite partners and guests gathered under one roof to mark a milestone in the history of the Union.
The Union spared no effort to organise an unforgettable and distinctive event which included the long membership award presentation.
At the reception, members and guests soaked in the revelry — taking snapshots at the photo booth and sipping a special mocktail, aptly named after the theme, Because of You, concocted for the event.
The party mood was whipped up with fun games, entertaining performances, table and game draws and more. A group of international tripartite partners and overseas affiliates also got into the act when they got on stage, one after the other, to congratulate SMOU with commendations, best wishes and gifts.
The gala dinner at the Raffles City Convention Centre on 22 October 2022 was made extra special with the presence of Singapore President, Madam Halimah Yacob as guest of honour.
President Halimah Commends SMOU’s Generosity
President Halimah and SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew announced that the Union is celebrating its milestone with some S$3.5M funds and initiatives to impact lives.
This includes the SMOU Care Fund which has almost S$3M; presentation of two cheques of S$170,000 each to the Mission to Seafarers Singapore and to the NTUC Health; and the $210,000 “Gift for You 2023” initiative.
President Halimah applauded SMOU’s generosity and added that SMOU has also offered “time and sincerity” in looking out for the vulnerable. She highlighted that the Union “has come a long way and accomplished many great achievements”.
“You must never ever forget the important role the Union plays,” President Halimah urged.
The funds and initiatives center around meeting the three concerns – seafarers’ mental health, rising cost of living and employment in the maritime sector – that SMOU will be focusing on for its members, General Secretary Sister Mary Liew said in her speech.
She also spoke the launch the WeCare programme, to be hosted by Wavelink Maritime Institute, in partnership with The Mission to Seafarers. The programme under the Seafarers’ Medical Scheme will make available two virtual mental well-being related courses to members.
Another highlight is the launch of the Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) Service Assistance to help defray costs for such services from approved providers in Singapore for members and their families of up to S$3,000 per lifetime.
Sister Mary also recounted how within a few months of setting up a ‘SMOU Employment Register’ channel on Telegram this year, more than 500 members have registered.
Because of You
The announcements, befitting the celebration theme, “Because of You”, warmed the hearts of the guests, including more than 50 overseas guests from some 20 countries, who attended the event.
Sister Mary remarked that though the gala dinner was held on the Eve of Deepavali, it was heartwarming to see the Union’s Indian friends and members coming together to celebrate SMOU’s 70th Platinum Jubilee.
Among the guests were Special Guest National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Secretary-General, Mr Ng Chee Meng, SMOU Advisors – Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Ms Grace Fu, and Senior Parliament Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development Mr Eric Chua.
Tripartite partners from the maritime sector such as Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Mr Chee Hong Tat, Singapore Shipping Association President Ms Caroline Yang, along with labour movement comrades Senior Minister of State for Defence and NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Mr Heng Chee How, and Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Mr Desmond Tan were present at the dinner. Guests from international organisations also include International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Mr Stephen Cotton, the International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC) Chairman Captain Belal Ahmed, and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General Mr Guy Platten.
“We want to acknowledge that it is Because of You, our members, and tripartite, shipping and international partners, that we have been able to come this long way from 1951” said GS Sister Mary.
“Our unique Singapore model of tripartism has also been how we have managed to progress together, decade after decade.”
Sister Mary highlighted that tripartite partners had put their best foot forward to work together and find win-win solutions for the maritime industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Through the period of crisis, I witnessed first-hand how you cared for and approached our seafarers’ plight, and to that, I am very moved. The uncertainty that we overcame together cemented the friendship and partnership that we share, and out of it, we improved many lives of our seafarers.”
She pointed out that the joint efforts at the Singapore Crew Change Workgroup and the SG-STAR Taskforce, enabled Singapore to be one of the first-movers in the world to formulate safe crew change protocols, for Singapore and the region, as well as vaccination for our seafarers.
“The partnership brought us further, strengthened relationships and built trust so that we are even more prepared for the next crisis,” she remarked.
SMOU Employment Register telegram channel success story
“The company that I was working for closed down earlier this year. I sent out quite a few CV but to no avail. Then I found out about the free SMOU Telegram employment channel and very quickly landed on a job for a Marine Superintendent role at Hong Lam Marine.
Without this job, I would definitely struggle financially. I have a 20 year old son and an 8 year old daughter. Every seaman needs a union and I am glad that SMOU is my union,” said Captain Zhang Shengli, 51, who became a Singaporean this year.
Long Membership Awards
It was heartening that during the auspicious event, nine members went on stage to receive the Long Membership Awards from NTUC SG Ng Chee Meng. All have been loyal members of SMOU for 45 years and were seen proudly showing their certificate and smart branded watch to their fellow members.
Long service award recipient, 74 year old Mohamed Khamdan Bin Hamzah, said: “SMOU is very helpful. During the pandemic, they really tried to help us financially. I sailed for 50 years and SMOU is constantly looking out for our safety and security. It is the best Union in whatever weather.”
Another award recipient, 77 year old Son Bow Peaw, enjoyed the many events the Union organised for its members. “I like events like the Lunar New Year celebration. I get to receive hongbao and meet my friends.”
“Members have always been at the heart of what SMOU does, and for more than 70 years, we have been finding avenues to reach out and do more for our members and their families. On our 70th Anniversary, SMOU gives back to members that have given us the ability to make a difference, by positioning the SMOU Care Fund to provide sturdier assistance to the ageing profile of our membership,” GS Mary Liew said.
“Because of our members who have stuck with us through the thick and the thin, SMOU will continue to put members first to our 100-year mark and beyond.”