Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Education at the Opening of the Joint CORE-NSRI Subsea Symposium 2010 at the Engineering Auditorium, National University of Singapore on Friday, 19 February 2010 at 9.30 am

Professor Tan Eng Chye
Deputy President & Provost, National University of Singapore,

Professor Albert Rodger,
Vice Principal, University of Aberdeen and Chief Executive, National Subsea Research Institute of the UK,

Mr Neil Walker,
UK Trade & Industry

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is my pleasure to join you today at this first Subsea Challenges symposium, jointly organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for Offshore Research and Engineering (CORE) and the UK National Subsea Research Institute (NSRI).

I am told that the theme of today’s symposium is “Tomorrow’s Technologies—Industry and Academic Perspectives”. It aptly captures the thrust of the strategic research collaboration that has been established between CORE and the NSRI. The subsea industry is a growing industry of global importance, especially as oil and gas exploration continues to move further offshore and into deeper waters. This research collaboration has the fundamental objective of supporting the development of future technologies for application in industry. I believe that the many R&D projects that will be jointly undertaken through this collaboration will serve to benefit Singapore, the UK and the industry worldwide.

Marine and Offshore Industry in Singapore

Despite Singapore’s lack of natural oil and gas resources, we have thus far done very well in the marine and offshore industry. From 2004 to 2008, our marine and offshore industry registered an impressive compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 31%. The industry employs close to 70,000 employees and generated a total output of S$20 billion in 2008.

Singapore is a major oil and gas equipment and services hub for the region and the world, and our deep strength in manufacturing and engineering has allowed us to gain industry leadership in several areas:-

  • Singapore is currently the world leader in the construction and engineering of offshore platforms, with a 70% world market share for jack-up new builds and for the conversion of Floating Production Storage & Offloading (FPSO) units.
  • Singapore is the leading oil field supply base in Asia, and our reach extends all the way to the Middle-East and Russia.
  • In addition, Singapore is an Asian leader in equipment manufacturing, engineering and services for oil field equipment, with capabilities ranging from surface to subsea.

The era of “easy oil” is over, and the exploration and production of oil and gas will move increasingly into deeper waters, presenting us with new challenges as well as new opportunities. This trend points towards an increased demand for semi-submersibles, drill ships, FPSO vessels and subsea equipment. Singapore is hence well-placed to benefit from this trend due to our global leadership in rig building and FPSO conversion, as well as in oil and gas equipment manufacturing and engineering.

Singapore’s Competitive Advantage

Most of the world’s largest oil and gas equipment manufacturers, as well as oil field service companies, have set up their Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Without our own oil and gas fields, how did Singapore manage to become so competitive, even establishing a position of leadership within the industry to become one of the world’s 3 major centres for the marine and offshore industry?

For a start, Singapore offers strong, stable governance as well as a solid regulatory framework to attract good companies to establish their bases here. Our high quality of living and cosmopolitan environment have also helped to attract businesses and talent.

However, I believe that our competitive advantage in this sector is derived from two key areas in which you, as representatives of academia and industry, play an important role. These are our strong manpower capabilities and high-quality technology.

To sustain this competitive advantage, it is imperative that our workforce continues to meet the requirements of the industry as it further develops, and that our engineers and technicians are trained to take up new challenges. In this regard, our educational institutions have played a very important role in ensuring that our workforce can meet the high level of talent that the industry demands. Our tertiary educational institutions have been training manpower in this area at the diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels, in order to meet the growing need for engineers and researchers at all levels of the vibrant marine and offshore industry.

Over the years, we have seen the development of many specialised courses at our local universities and polytechnics. These include the Offshore Engineering Specialisation in the Department of Civil Engineering in NUS, and the Marine and Offshore Engineering Specialisation offered by the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NTU. Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic are also currently collaborating with overseas university partners to conduct degree programmes in Naval Architecture, while offering their own diploma programmes in Marine & Offshore Technology and Marine Engineering respectively. These courses are strongly endorsed by industry and many of our industry partners have also demonstrated their support by offering scholarships to attract bright students to the field. Furthermore, the involvement of industry ensures close alignment between curriculum and the evolving needs of the sector. This has helped to ensure a steady pipeline of highly employable graduates in the field.

Singapore has also developed strong capabilities in research and development, which has helped to fuel the growth of the marine and offshore industry locally. One prime example of this is the institution hosting us today, CORE, which has helped to grow our R&D capabilities in the field through partnership between academia and industry. I believe that by forging strong alliances with overseas partners such as NSRI, CORE will continue to achieve new heights in subsea technology R&D.

Companies find Singapore an attractive R&D location because of our strong framework for the protection of intellectual property rights, availability of good local and foreign talent, as well as the ability to work together with our Universities and Research Institutes. Most of the world’s largest oil and gas equipment companies and oil field services companies have already set up R&D operations in Singapore, or are in the process of doing so. Recognising the R&D needs of the offshore and subsea industry, EDB, A*STAR and the MPA have also encouraged, supported and given funding to various research activities within CORE. I would like to strongly encourage continued active engagement with the industry to ensure that this R&D effort yields outcomes that are of high quality with significant application value.


In conclusion, I would like to congratulate both CORE and NSRI on the development of this strategic collaboration. I am sure that the close partnership between these two organisations will result in significant benefits for the industry, not just locally but also globally. I look forward to more collaboration between academia and the industry, and I wish all of you a productive exchange of ideas at this symposium today.

Thank you.