The Singapore maritime industry will get a further $27 million in aid to tide it over the coronavirus outbreak, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced late Wednesday night (April 29).
The package, meant for shipping companies, Singaporean seafarers and people undergoing maritime training, kicks in on May 1 and is on top of previous relief measures announced under the previous three 'extraordinary' budgets.
It is timely that more support be offered in the midst of increasing disruption to the shipping industry, said MPA's chief executive Quah Ley Hoon.
For starters, the 500 or so Singaporean seafarers in the industry can apply for up to $800 per month in financial assistance if they cannot get shipboard employment between May 1 and Jul 31.
The authority said it has been facilitating the return of Singaporean seafarers who wish to end their tour of duty when their ships call at Singapore.
To help vessel owners and cargo vessel operators, MPA said it will provide an additional 30 per cent port dues concession for cargo vessels from May 1 to Dec 31, on top of all existing port dues concessions.
During the same period, a 30 per cent port dues concession will also be granted to all non passenger-carrying harbourcraft in the Port of Singapore.
Regional ferry operatorswillnow get a 50 per cent rebate on counter rentals and overnight berthing at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, rising from the previous 35 per cent given. The rebate will also run till Dec 31.
Maritime companies will also get some relief from financial pressures. MPA said it recognised that maritime companies may face challenges in managing their cash flows and meeting their financial obligations, and it will exercise flexibility in credit management measures till the end of the year.
Under the MaritimeSG Together Package, MPA will also provide a one-time increase of $50,000 to its annual contribution of $150,000 to seafarer welfare associations in May 2020. The annual grant supports a wide range of welfare services for seafarers including free counselling services and pastoral care, which are available online.
"We hope that the seafarer's relief package will help soften the impact of this unprecedented situation by easing the financial burden that affects our seafarers," said Singapore Maritime Officers' Union general secretary Mary Liew.
MPA, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), SMOU, and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) are also jointly providing $10,000 to eligible Certificate of Competency Class 1 (COC 1) holders who can clock at least six months of sea experience as chief officers or second engineers from Jan to Dec 2020.
To keep maritime cadets on track, the Singapore Maritime Academy and MPA will also be flexible on curriculum requirements and conduct online training.
Looking ahead, MPA will seek to encourage re-training, support maritime companies with new manpower schemes, and increase co-funding provided under selected Maritime Cluster Fund programmes.
"The MaritimeSG Together Package aims to provide targeted support for the maritime companies, individuals, and seafarers. They have been working tirelessly to keep our ports open and cargoes going," said Ms Quah.