BRAVING NEW WAVES TOGETHER
Celebrating 40 Years of ASMI
The year 2008 is a banner one for the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI), as the association is commemorating its 40th anniversary at a time when the industry it represents is booming. The volume of rigs and ships built and repaired in Singapore this year is higher than at any time in the nation’s history.
As the industry’s champion, ASMI has contributed to the industry’s evolution, from being a regional centre for ship building and repair to an international centre of distinction for marine and offshore repair, conversion and newbuilding projects.
“ASMI is a collective body where all the main players in the industry are members,” said Michael Chia, ASMI’s President since 2005. “Being the representative of a majority of the industry players, ASMI has the duty to promote the industry both locally and in the international context. Within Singapore, ASMI provides a common front for the industry in areas of mutual concerns such as in terms of manpower, safety, training and image enhancement.”
The strength of ASMI is in the unwavering support and cohesiveness of its membership, now more than 200 strong. Despite the intensely competitive environment, industry members have been able to set aside their differences to use ASMI as a platform to forge a consensus on common issues to allow the industry to go forward.
As Heng Chiang Gnee, ASMI’s longest-serving president, 1997-2005, said, “With global competition on the increase, it is pertinent for the industry to foster a new spirit of co-operation among its members. We need to rally together, to close ranks and integrate among ourselves to meet new challenges as a big team... There is a recognition that somehow if we can work closer here, we can bring about mutual benefits.”
Mr Chia, who is also Executive Director of Keppel FELS Ltd added, “The unity of our members in tackling common industry problems has been exemplary... ASMI has served as a catalyst in many of these instances.” In the last forty years, the association has provided the necessary springboard for many joint efforts and initiatives in the marine industry.
Fostering Partnership Amongst Members
Established as the Singapore Association of Shipbuilders and Repairers (SASAR) in 1968 with a membership of ten, the association’s initial compact was amongst shipbuilders and repairers. With the build-up in ship repair and ship building facilities and the heightened level of activities, an association was needed to foster closer ties among industry members. SASAR’s early objectives were to develop the shipbuilding and repair industry, and to increase the exports of Singapore ships and boats.
As the first SASAR President, 1968-1971, John Wilde told members, “Any ship built or repaired in Singapore is a travelling advertisement of the republic’s highly specialised expertise to the world.” In this regard, the association would lend assistance to members to ensure that Singapore-built vessels became
well known throughout the world for their workmanship.
From representing a third of the shipyards in Singapore in 1968, the association grew in tandem with the industry. It did not take long for SASAR members to realise that the well-being of the shipyards depended on the vast community of marine supporting infrastructure. Diversified and broad-based, they provided the breadth of services which enabled the shipyards to operate very efficiently.
As Loh Weng Siew, SASAR’s President, 1983-1989, pointed out, “We realised that the Association can no longer afford to cater to the interests of the particular shipyard sector alone. There are the marine engineering, marine services, marine design and consultancy companies, marine equipment suppliers and manufacturers. Each of these sectors is an indispensable part of the full industry infrastructure.”
In 1988, the association reorganised and reinvented itself. Companies whose activities were directly connected with shipbuilding and ship repair were accepted into the association, first as associates, then as full members of SASAR. The association’s constitution was amended but the intentions remained the same – to represent the interests of members, foster co-operation among them and organise regular programmes to address common issues. Its name was changed to the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) to reflect the wider representation.
This enlightened move paved the way for a more effective integration and stronger representation of the marine industry. Since then, the association has grown from strength to strength, to serve as the representative body and voice of the industry.
Achieving Common Objectives
One of the key roles of the association is to spearhead initiatives to help the industry address common areas of concerns. Among them are issues relating to manpower, training, safety, industry promotion and capability building.
Manpower development is a key focus within ASMI as the industry is a sizeable employer. A steady infusion of talent is needed to fill positions at every level of the industry. Under the aegis of ASMI, a systematic programme has been developed to recruit production workers, who form a sizeable percentage of the industry’s 130,000-strong workforce. This includes training and upgrading their skills and capabilities, assessing their level of skill competencies and certifying them.
The association also takes the lead in collective efforts to interest Singapore’s young to pursue a career in the industry. In partnership with key government agencies, several initiatives have been introduced to attract, train, develop and retain them, and groom them to assume the leadership positions in the industry.
Industry promotion, always an intrinsic part of ASMI’s agenda, has taken on a new dimension in recent years, as the industry strives to raise its interest quotient amongst Singaporeans to secure its share of the limited talent pool.
Safety remains a primary concern with ASMI. Through painstaking effort involving the government, unions and employers, the association has established some common safety standards and generic safe work practices which are rolled out industry-wide to facilitate the movement of the sub-contract workforce.
Through addressing common concerns, camaraderie has developed. This is further reinforced by regular social events, which also allow executives representing the broad cross section of the industry to meet and network. Through regular contacts, partnerships have been established which have helped the industry to go forward.
Mr Chia said, “ASMI has been effective in providing a platform for members to share ideas, exchange knowledge and experience, raise and discuss common issues… ASMI will continue to play an active role in bringing the industry players together towards a common goal.” The association will continue to provide the catalyst for fostering co-operation among industry members and the necessary support to promote and facilitate the growth of the industry.
The ability of ASMI to bring members together on common issues has enabled the industry to take advantage of the favourable conditions to expand and capture a sizeable share of the global market, and establish Singapore as a premier centre for the marine and offshore industry.
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