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Commercial overview of the shipping industry

With more than 130,000 vessels calling at the port of Singapore annually, Singapore is an extremely important global business centre, acting as a maritime gateway to Asia. According to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), it is 'the top bunkering port in the world'. As well as the business Singapore receives from the traffic passing through its ports, it is also home to more than 140 of the world's top international shipping groups and has more than 4,500 vessels registered with the Singapore Registry of Ships. The most recent figures for Singapore's seaborne cargo put the volume at 627.688 million tonnes, with container throughput at a notable 33.667 million TEUs.

The scale of the maritime industry in Singapore, and its importance to Singapore and the rest of the world, explains its sophisticated maritime legal framework.

General overview of the legislative framework

Singapore has incorporated the following IMO conventions into its legislative framework:

  1. the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention), the 1978 SOLAS Protocol, the 1988 SOLAS Protocol (HSSC) and the 1996 SOLAS Agreement;
  2. the 1966 Load Lines Convention (the Load Lines Convention) and the 1988 Protocol;
  3. the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (the COLREGs);
  4. the 1969 International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships (the Tonnage Convention);
  5. the 1972 International Convention for Safe Containers (the CSC Convention);
  6. the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (the STCW Convention);
  7. the 1976 Operating Agreement on the International Maritime Satellite Organisation;
  8. the 1976 Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organisation;
  9. the 1965 Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (the FAL Convention);
  10. the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Convention) (Annex I to Annex V) and the 1997 MARPOL Protocol to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Annex VI);
  11. the 1976 and 1992 Protocols to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage;
  12. the 1992 Protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage;
  13. the 1976 Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (the LLMC Convention);
  14. the 1988 Cospas-Sarsat Programme Agreement (COS-SAR);
  15. the 2001 International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships (the Anti-Fouling Convention);
  16. the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (the SAR Convention);
  17. the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (the SUA Convention) and the 1988 SUA Protocol;
  18. the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (the OPRC Convention) and the 2000 Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS-OPRC);
  19. the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (the Bunkers Convention);
  20. the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), as amended by Amendments of 2014;
  21. the 2004 Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments; and
  22. the 2007 Nairobi Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (the Nairobi Convention).

Singapore's international obligations set out in these IMO conventions are administered by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) through six key Singapore statutes and regulations made thereunder:

  1. the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore Act, which regulates the functions, duties, and powers of the MPA, the employment of seafarers, port regulation, licensing, etc.;
  2. the Merchant Shipping Act, which covers the registration of ships, manning and crew matters, and safety issues;
  3. the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act, which empowers the MPA to take preventive measures against pollution;
  4. the Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability and Compensation for Oil Pollution) Act 2008, which addresses liability for oil pollution;
  5. the Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability and Compensation for Bunker Oil Production) Act, which considers liability for bunker oil pollution;
  6. the Maritime Offences Act, which incorporates certain conventions, such as the SUA Convention, that deal with criminal offences; and
  7. the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act 2014 (Act 6 of 2014), which safeguards the well-being and working conditions of seafarers aboard ships.