Equipping For the Seas

From its early days as leading centre for ship repair, Singapore’s marine and offshore sector has grown from strength to strength, extending into areas such as shipyard operations, vessel design and marine supporting services.

An International Maritime Centre

In recent years, Singapore has risen to become a global market leader in the building of jack-up rigs and conversion of Floating Production Storage Offloading (FPSO) units, while also becoming a niche player in the construction of customized and specialised vessels.

With such a highly developed marine and offshore industry, it is no surprise that the sector forms an important part of the economy. According to the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI), Singapore’s maritime sector brought in a total turnover of S$15.3 billion and employed some 109,700 workers in 2013. Singapore is home to a good number of leading marine and offshore firms, the two largest being Keppel Offshore & Marine and SembCorp Marine.

Sailing in Tandem

To cater to the requirements of the marine and offshore sector – with its focus on ship building, repair and conversion, as well as offshore rig building – a thriving marine supporting industry has also evolved alongside it. The players in this sector range from small and medium-sized workshops to comprehensive factory facilities. There are also many international manufacturers who have set up local agencies for their own manufacturing, sales and services facilities.

All in all, there is a comprehensive range of firms manufacturing or servicing marine equipment and components in Singapore, spanning areas such as navigation, communication, electronics, propulsion and auxiliary equipment. This is in addition to the in-house design and production capabilities of local and international shipyards and marine and offshore firms.

The local marine equipment sector further benefits from Singapore’s strengths as an advanced manufacturing hub. With its strong base in precision engineering – a core enabler for the manufacture of complex equipment – Singapore has risen to become the leading location in the region for the production of oil and gas equipment.

Setting Up Shop

In recent years, many global offshore and marine companies have established and expanded their operations significantly in Singapore. One of them is global power systems giant Rolls Royce. In a nod to the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific market, Roll Royce shifted the global headquarters for its marine business to Singapore in 2011.

Singapore now houses the marine services business, marine repair and overhaul service centre and Asia ship design centre at the time. With the shifting of headquarters, Singapore has taken on key global responsibilities including business development, marketing and corporate services too.

With Asia accounting for over 80 per cent of global commercial shipbuilding, other leading marine equipment makers have also established their manufacturing plants in Singapore, to be closer to their markets. These includes Berg Propulsion, a leader in marine propellers and thrusters from Sweden, and MacGregor-Plimsoll, which has established an offshore crane manufacturing plant for their most advanced range of active-heave compensation cranes.

Teaming Up Together

Besides setting up in Singapore, one other way international marine equipment makers are tapping the Asia-Pacific market is through the setting up of joint partnerships with local firms. In 2010, locally listed SME Mencast Marine entered a joint venture with Becker Marine Systems GmbH & Co. KG, a German company that manufactures 70 per cent of the world’s steering components, and Machinefabriek Amersfoort B.V., a Dutch company that specialises in large and heavy turning and boring machine work.

Under the joint venture, a manufacturing plant has been set up in Singapore to design and produce heavy rudder assemblies and high-end stern gear equipment for the marine and offshore industries. Mencast Marine will take charge of production, while Becker will provide the technical know-how of rudder design, with Amersfoort sharing its expertise in the shaping of metal pieces.

Looking Towards the Future

The report “Global Marine Trends 2030” by QinetiQ, Lloyd’s Register and Strathclyde University has predicted that the three sectors of commercial shipping, naval defence and offshore energy are expected to continue growing in the years ahead. By 2030, global population is expected to reach 8 billion, global GDP is expected to triple, and seaborne trade will double from nine billion tonnes per annum to somewhere between 19 and 24 billion tonnes.

As a result of this rapid growth, there is expected to be accompanying growth in demand for shipping, shipbuilding and marine equipment manufacture. With Singapore right at the epicentre of economic growth here in Asia, the marine equipment sector looks set for brighter horizons ahead.

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