Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore commands an enormous presence in the global maritime industry. In terms of shipping tonnage, her port is one of the world’s busiest. We speak to two maritime scholars to learn how the maritime industry has opened doors to enriching opportunities and exciting career prospects.
By Yvette Tan
Many marvel at the phenomenal growth and progress that Singapore has achieved, from a humble fishing village to the cosmopolitan city it is today. Yet they tend to overlook the pillars on which our success was built upon.
Singapore’s growth and development from an entrepôt to its current prominence as an International Maritime Centre did not happen by chance.
“Since young, we were taught that shipping plays a vital role in world trade, with more than 90 percent of the world's trade being carried by ships. The maritime industry has contributed significantly to Singapore’s economic success and she would not have become the country she is today without it. I knew then that I could not go wrong with a career in the maritime industry,” 26-year-old Melody Cheng elucidates, explaining why she decided to take up a maritime scholarship.
Armed with a profound interest in the maritime industry, Melody was thrilled to hear about the newly launched Bachelor of Science in Maritime Studies course during the open house organised by Nanyang Technological University.
Naturally, she enrolled for the course without any hesitation.
“Even though it was a new course back then, the professors were really passionate and experienced. They shared the exciting future prospects and the diversity of careers in the industry, ranging from ship banking and ship broking to marine legal and arbitration services, that are available to maritime graduates,” Melody recalls.
Upon her graduation, Melody had the opportunity to flex her maritime muscles when she joined the company where she served her internship – M3 Marine Group, an offshore shipbroking company.
As a Commercial Executive, Melody is responsible for the construction of new offshore support vessels. With clients based in China, Melody had the opportunity to travel and broaden her exposure.
“To ensure the smooth delivery of vessels, I travelled to China to facilitate the administrative and documentation works. As a new entrant in the maritime sector, this exposure was highly beneficial as it allowed me to better understand the intricacies of the maritime industry and work alongside people of different nationalities.”
Such overseas trips are amongst Melody’s most memorable experiences. She also appreciates the learning opportunities at work.
“In the maritime industry, there are many things that are beyond our control. For instance, how does one react if a cargo fails to reach the port on time or if a vessel fails to function normally? You need to think on your feet, keep cool and find solutions in the face of adversity. Being able to successfully overcome challenges drives me and gives me an immeasurable sense of satisfaction,” she confides.
The road less travelled
Currently in his last year of studies as a Naval Architecture undergraduate from Newcastle University, Thomas Xie’s first brush with the maritime industry was when he was a student at the Singapore Maritime Academy at Singapore Polytechnic.
Things could have turned out very differently for the 25-year-old who had initial plans to major in Electrical Engineering. However, being awarded the prestigious The LRET – MaritimeONE scholarship affirmed Thomas’ decision to carve a niche for himself in the maritime industry.
“Naval Architecture is a specialised engineering discipline that deals with the design and construction of marine vessels and structures. As a Naval Architect, I will have the opportunity to work closely with a team of engineers on large-scale and complex projects and will be in-charge of coordinating and integrating all activities.”
Since undertaking the scholarship, Thomas has been exposed to exciting and unforgettable learning opportunities, one of which was a three-week internship with Lloyd’s Register in the United Kingdom.
“My main duty involved checking and verifying existing projects. Through this opportunity, I had the rare chance to experience what it is like to be working overseas and learning from the best overseas maritime experts in the industry. It was truly an eye-opening experience!” Thomas elaborates.
Thomas also participated in several enriching networking and learning journeys as part of the MaritimeONE initiative organised by the Singapore maritime community.
“I participated in the inaugural Learning Journey for MaritimeONE scholars and students, visiting some of the highly restricted premises of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and PSA. The trip gave me a clearer understanding and appreciation of the Singapore maritime industry as a whole. I also participated in the Maritime Lecture Speaker Series which allowed me to interact with like-minded peers from other maritime courses and maritime professionals.”
Bright future ahead
With a myriad of exciting opportunities and multiple avenues to progress within the maritime industry, both Melody and Thomas have big aspirations for the future.
“With the experience and knowledge gained from my previous company, I am now ready to take up a sales position and work towards having my own clients. I hope to be able to rise to a managerial position in a ship owning company and train junior maritime professionals in the near future,” Melody shares.
Echoing Melody’s sentiments, Thomas says, “Just as a ship cannot sail without a team of capable seafarers, the local maritime sector needs a core group of competent individuals to sustain its long-term growth. I hope to do my part to make Singapore a leading International Maritime Centre and inspire others to join the maritime industry.”
Key to success
For those interested to shape the future of Singapore’s maritime landscape, Thomas and Melody contributed nuggets of wisdom, gleaned from their own experiences.
“The maritime industry is broad in depth and breadth. If you seek a dynamic and challenging work environment that provides a rewarding career path, I strongly encourage you to be part of the maritime industry,” Thomas says.
Melody chirps in, “One of the most important qualities is to enter the industry with an open mind. You will be amazed by the strong spirit of camaraderie amongst the maritime community and the guidance provided to fresh graduates. Every day offers a new learning opportunity.”