An extract from The Shipping Law Review, 7th Edition

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 twenty-foot equivalent units.

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 International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions into its legislative framework:

  1. the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS), the 1978 SOLAS Protocol, the 1988 SOLAS Protocol and the 1996 SOLAS Agreement;
  2. the International Convention on Load Lines 1966 (the Load Lines Convention) and the 1988 Protocol;
  3. the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs);
  4. the International Convention on the Tonnage Measurement of Ships 1969 (the Tonnage Convention);
  5. the International Convention for Safe Containers 1972 (the CSC Convention);
  6. the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1978 (the STCW Convention);
  7. the Operating Agreement on the International Maritime Satellite Organisation 1976;
  8. the Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organisation 1976 (the INMARSAT Convention);
  9. the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic 1965 (the FAL Convention);
  10. the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 (as modified by the Protocol of 1978) (MARPOL (73/78)) (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 1969 (the CLC Convention);
  12. the 1992 Protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1992 (the Oil Pollution Fund Convention);
  13. the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (the LLMC Convention 1976);
  14. the Cospas-Sarsat Programme Agreement 1988 (COS-SAR);
  15. the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships 2001 (the Anti-Fouling Convention);
  16. the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue 1979 (the Search and Rescue Convention);
  17. the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 (SUA) and the 1988 SUA Protocol;
  18. the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 1990 (the OPRC Convention) and the Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances 2000 (the HNS-OPRC Protocol);
  19. the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001 (the Bunker Convention);
  20. the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), as amended by Amendments of 2014;
  21. the Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (the Ballast Water Management Convention); and
  22. the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007 (the Nairobi WRC 2007).

Singapore's international obligations set out in these IMO conventions are administered by the MPA through seven 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, 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.