Singapore earmarks $10m for maritime start-up support

Chee Hong Tat, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport, announced the new initiatives

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has announced plans to set aside SGD$10 million from its Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund to support the growth and development of maritime technology start-ups in Singapore as it expands its efforts to be the premier maritime start-up hub in the world.

MPA says it also intends to develop a new digital technology marketplace and start-up playbook to support these initiatives. The marketplace will connect maritime and venture capital companies with start-ups, while the playbook will provide a guide for start-ups to take advantage of available schemes and support programmes relating to talent, capital and R&D resources.

Funds will be made available through a new grant scheme called MINT-STARTUP. Start-ups that have completed PIER71 or other relevant maritime acceleration programmes in Singapore can apply for a grant of up to S$50,000 to pilot their projects. Promising start-ups looking to scale up their offerings or projects can also apply for a project grant of up to S$100,000.

This funding push was one of a number of initiatives launched during Singapore Maritime Week, taking place from 19-22 April. Other announcements include plans to develop digitalBunker@SG, a secure system for bunker companies to automate bunker data submission for regulatory reporting purposes that is expected to save more than 1,400 man-days annually for the sector.

Details of the successful completion of an eBL (electronic Bill of Lading) trial to demonstrate the interoperability between different digital trade platforms were also announced during the event, with Singapore and the Netherlands completing a shipment where an eBL ‘shadowed’ a live shipment from Qui Nhon, Vietnam to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, via transhipment in Singapore.

The trial showed that there were significant time savings that could be made in the documentation process by going digital, from an average of six to ten days when using a hardcopy to less than 24 hours when using an eBL. This trial also marks one of the first completed title transfers, across different digital platforms, facilitated by TradeTrust, an open-standard digital utility developed by Singaporean authorities to enable interoperability of electronic systems.

MPA has also announced additions to its digitalOCEANS initiative focused on harmonising global data standards for maritime digitalisation, with DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association) joining the programme’s existing international partners. The group will work towards the joint publication of a set of API specifications for sharing across the international maritime community by end 2021.

Finally, MPA has officially launched Singapore’s first Maritime Drone Estate (MDE), located near Marina South Pier and providing a space to test bed and develop drone technologies for maritime applications such as shore-to-ship deliveries and remote ship inspections.

At the launch event on 20 April, Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport, loaded a 3D-printed part into a drone carriage and witnessed the drone deliver its package from the MDE to a vessel at the nearby anchorage.

Eleven industry players showcased their technologies at the launch, which included engineering systems, additive manufacturing, and communication services in addition to drones. The companies present were Airbus, Avetics Global, F-drones, Garuda Robotics, M1, Nova Systems Asia, Skyports, ST Engineering, thyssenkrupp, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, and Volocopter.

Nine of those companies have already conducted trials at the drone estate. These included shore-to-ship use-cases by companies such as Wilhelmsen and Airbus, Foodpanda and ST Engineering, and F-drones. CWT Aerospace conducted trials using drones for surveillance while Avetics Global trialled beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drones for surveillance and remote ship inspection.

Airbus and M1, with the support of Infocomm Media Development Authority, are also conducting 5G network and technology trials to enable maritime drone operations, while Nova Systems Asia tested the use of an unmanned aircraft traffic management system to enable large-scale drone operations.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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