Launch of S$1.2 million Tripartite Marine Engineering Training Initiative

Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say launched the S$1.2 million Tripartite Engineering Training Award (TETA) Programme (劳资政航海机械培训奖计划) to train more Singaporeans to be marine engineers on board commercial ships on 3 May at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability during the Investiture Ceremony for TETA.

The Manpower Minister was at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Singapore Maritime Training Fund (SMTF) where he personally put on the epaulets for the TETA cadets.

The TETA is a joint initiative by Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU), Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and is supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) and shipping companies.

This pilot programme is launched to address the acute shortage of marine engineers faced by the maritime industry and after gathering feedback from the shipping companies. An entry-level 5th or 4th marine engineer can earn an average of S$4,000 per month while a Chief Engineer can earn close to S$10,000 per month. It is a good career with an excellent progressive wage model.

The pilot programme is conducted by SMOU’s training arm, Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI). Cadets are offered training berths by a shipping company even before they embark on their training, receiving between S$1,200 - S$1,400 training allowances during the approximate 31-month programme.

This CET (Continuous Education and Training) route is good for those who have completed their National Service with engineering background from ITE Higher Nitec who are looking for a career switch to have better job progression and better pay.

This programme is one of the latest manpower initiatives in recent years that shows the government’s support to help the Singapore maritime sector that is currently facing many challenges.

SMOU General Secretary, Ms Mary Liew said, “Over the years, we have noticed the manpower issues, in particular the dwindling number of Singaporean seafaring officers and marine engineers willing to embark on this career. Therefore, we initiated various programmes with the help of our tripartite partners that adopt the CET route, to give Singaporeans a second opportunity to choose seafaring as a career. It has not been an easy path because our selection process is stringent but seeing lives being changed for the better has been highly encouraging for all of us involved.”

Mr Gilbert Tan, Chief Executive Officer of e2i, said: “As the bridge connecting workers, employers and training providers, e2i is always close to the ground and responding to market changes. The Maritime employers are constantly in-search of skilled Marine Engineers, hence, with changes made to the curriculum coupled with the introduction of simulation training for applied learning; more Singaporeans can enjoy a shorter training period and still gain the necessary certification to join the industry. e2i will continue to work with industry partners to develop and grow the Singapore Maritime workforce, making it an attractive sector to join.”

Mr Ang Chai Soon, Director of the Manufacturing Division at WDA, said: “WDA has collaborated with the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union and Employment and Employability Institute to roll out the Tripartite Engineering Training Award. This initiative aims to provide a training and career progression pathway for Singaporeans who are keen to embark on a fulfilling career as seafaring marine engineers. The initiative will also help local marine engineers to deepen their skills and strive towards skills mastery, in line with the national SkillsFuture movement.”

In today’s context, the process of acquiring seafaring skills has shortened. The cadets in the programmes are given hours of hands-on experience in the state-of-the-art maritime simulation centre that is integrated with Engine Room Simulator, 240 degree Full Mission Bridge Simulator, Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) and Liquid Cargo Handling Simulator (LCHS) as part of the continual and collective efforts to develop the Singapore Maritime Core to support the local maritime industry.

Traditionally, seafaring skills are very much time-based learning, that is, the longer they work on-board a ship, the better skills they have. But now with simulation training, the marine engineering cadets’ skills are accelerated with real-time feedback in a risk-free environment. Thus, they become better marine engineers, have better jobs and better lives. It is a win-win situation for them as well as the shipping companies.

“I was a part-time bus driver for my family-run private bus company for 1.5 years after being retrenched as a Personnel and Logistics Coordinator. I feel privileged to be selected for this Programme as this is an integration of my passion as an engineer and a seafarer. Moreover, we are given training berths even before we embark on the training,” said TETA Cadet, 31 year-old Manogaran Harishankaran.

The official launch of the TETA initiative also coincided with the investiture of the 11th Cohort of the Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) Programme who will be embarking on their 31-month training. TNTA trains Singaporeans to become seafaring officers. Cadets from TNTA Cohort 10 were also presented with their pre-sea certificates after having completed their 6 months of classroom training where they will now start their 18 months of sea-time training.

PROGRESSIVE WAGE OF MARINE ENGINEERING OFFICERS

TETA Cadet 5th / 4th Engineer 3rd Engineer 2nd Engineer Chief Engineer
(CoC Class 5) (CoC Class 5) (CoC Class 2) (CoC Class 1)
US$ 668 US$ 3,000 US$ 3,500 US$ 6,000 US$ 7,000

This is based on average wage. Exchange rate:1.35

Today, Singapore is home to more than 5,000 maritime establishments employing over 170,000 people. Against such a backdrop, the demand for maritime professionals will only continue to grow exponentially and with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) taking effect to help improve seafarers’ rights, the maritime manpower landscape looks poised to grow at a rapid rate.

Singapore is among the world’s top 10 largest ship registries but out of more than 20,000 officers on board more than 4,700 Singapore-flagged ships, only 1,605 are Singaporeans.

SMOU has been active in promoting the seafaring career to Singaporeans as it is a well-paying job with excellent career progression. Besides initiating CET programmes for Singaporeans to embark on a seafaring career, the Union was also the first to invest in a state-of-the-art simulation centre that costs approximately S$4 million.

With hours of training in the engine room simulator, the quality and efficiency of those undergoing training to work on board commercial ships as seafaring marine engineers can be further improved as the various realistic scenarios help bridge the gap between theory and practical, thus reinforcing their learning. The trainer can also assess the users’ response to various scenarios and provide immediate feedback to the users, thereby accelerating the learning and training effectiveness.

Intended to give Singaporeans a head start in their seafaring careers through a structured OJT and mentorship at sea. The programme will assist local junior officers with either a foreign-going Certificate of Competency Class 3 (CoC Class 3) for deck officers or Class 5 (CoC Class 5) for marine engineers to deepen his/her skills through a sea attachment (in accordance with the STCW code). This will allow the junior officers to be better prepared to attain their CoC Class 2 and CoC Class 1 qualifications, with a view to take up senior shipboard positions.

Each junior officer who embarks on the programme will benefit from a structured OJT and mentorship at sea, as well as an incentive of up to S$5,000 for the successful completion of the programme. Employers will be eligible for a grant of up to S$15,000 per trainee.

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