Opening Remarks at Safe Boarding of Vessels Webinar

28 May 2021 Speeches


Professor Chan Eng Soon, Chairman, WSH Council (Marine Industries) Committee;
Captain Kevin Wong, Port Master, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore;
Friends and colleagues;
A very good afternoon to you, 

1. I am glad to speak to everyone today. 

2. This webinar comes at a timely juncture, as we highlight the importance of remaining vigilant against COVID transmission on our maritime frontline, while continuing to prevent accidents linked to work on vessels.

Remain vigilant against COVID spread 
3. It is worrying that there has been a continuous stream of COVID-19 community cases in Singapore. 
i. In our waters, a COVID-19 cluster was reported after a sea crew member transmitted the virus to workers on board the same bunker tanker, resulting in four community cases. 
ii. These developments across the country have led us to introduce additional restrictions under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) to minimise transmission of the virus in a swift and decisive manner.  

4. These are stark reminders that we cannot let our guard down in our fight against the pandemic. 
i. In particular, the maritime industry is considered a high-risk sector in terms of potential COVID-19 infections, as it involves our workers having to work onboard different visiting ships. 
ii. It is not viable to close our port, so it is imperative that we continue to uphold strict Safe Management Measures to curb the spread of the virus and safeguard our workers. 

5. Under MPA’s guidelines, shore-based personnel boarding the vessels in port must abide by the following requirements: 
i. wearing an appropriate level of personal protection equipment, such as gloves and gowns; 
ii. refraining from staying on board for longer than necessary; 
iii. avoiding consumption of food or drink from the ship’s stores; 
iv. and not partaking in any gatherings while on board. 

6. I strongly urge everyone to do your part in the nation’s fight against COVID-19, and to strictly adhere to MPA’s guidelines and procedures. 

Everyone must do their part to prevent accidents 
7. In this new normal, we cannot neglect safety. It would be a disservice to the industry if lives are saved from COVID, but workers lose their lives to workplace accidents.
i. Back in 2019, a technician and his team were tasked to do some repairs on board a ship. 
ii. After completing the repairs, they proceeded to board a smaller launch boat to leave the vessel. 
iii. While crossing a platform to board the launch boat, a sudden swell in the waves caused the launch boat to strike the platform, which then caused the technician to fall into the sea and subsequently drown. 
iv. The victim was fondly remembered by his son as an “easy-going person”, who was “always smiling and joking away”. 
v. They last saw each other sometime in October 2019 over video chat, and he would often tell his family not to worry about him while he was working. 

8. We need to ask ourselves if he could still be with his family if more emphasis was placed in upholding WSH standards. 
i. Safety and health should be everyone’s responsibility, from management to each individual worker. When working near bodies of water, employers should provide their workers with the necessary equipment, such as life jackets. 
ii. If a worker spots any unsafe work conditions, such as a broken ladder, or if he notices that the weather has taken a turn for the worse, 
iii. he should be empowered to stop work without any fear of repercussions. 

9. Doing so can mean the difference between life or death.  

10. If your workers need to work near the sea, do ensure that they are physically fit, adequately trained and equipped with the right tools and protective equipment to do so. 

11. Just last week, another fatal accident happened on board a vessel.  
i. Two workers had most probably died from lack of oxygen after entering a confined space on a dredger. 
ii. While investigations are still ongoing, this incident could have been avoided if well-established WSH measures for working in confined spaces were taken. 

Collaboration with MPA to enhance capabilities 
12. I know it will be challenging for the industry to ensure both priorities of preventing COVID-19 and accidents are managed well. 

13. To help the maritime industry, I am pleased to share that the WSH Council is collaborating with MPA on several initiatives to enhance the WSH capabilities of workers and promote water safety this year. 

14. This is a focus for us, as the WSH Council had previously organised a bizSAFE workshop for the attendees of the WSH Dialogue Session with the water transport industry.  

15. We will soon expand this to engage other stakeholders, such as ship owners, ship operators and shipping agents, to encourage them to come onboard bizSAFE as well. 

16. With this expansion, I highly encourage the maritime sector to embark on your bizSAFE journey, as a testament to not just your employees, but also your clients, that you are committed to providing a safer and healthier workplace. 

17. A “Water Transport Case Studies” Booklet, which features a compilation of past incidents will be produced. 
iii. It will include recommendations and best practices, as verified by the MPA and representatives in the harbour craft industry. 
iv. Such a compilation provides the industry with easy access to valuable lessons that we can learn from, and take the necessary steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in future. 
v. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

18. Last but not least, the WSH Council and the MPA will be jointly producing a new safety video to increase water transport safety awareness. 

19. It will serve as a good visual reminder to launch boat and harbour craft passengers and crew about safety matters, such as safe boarding and disembarking from the pier to vessels, and the importance of wearing a life jacket. 

20. The video will be screened at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier – to catch the most crew and passenger eyeballs – and distributed via social media.  

21. The maritime industry is a crucial pillar in sustaining global supply chains. As such, it is important that they maintain high WSH standards. 

22. Through this webinar, I hope that you will be able to learn from each other, and continue to work towards building a safe and healthy workforce for the maritime sector. 

23. I wish you a fruitful session ahead. 

24. Thank you. 

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28 May 2021

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

500 spots available