DPM Heng Swee Keat at the TechWaves: SGTraDex Maritime Conference

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 23 February 2024

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the TechWaves: SGTraDex Maritime Conference on 23 February 2024.


Mr Tan Chin Hwee and Mr Tan Chong Meng, 
Chairman and Vice-Chairman, SGTraDex Services,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m delighted to join you at today’s “TechWaves” Maritime Conference to mark an important milestone in the journey of the Singapore Trade Data Exchange, or SGTraDex as it is better known.

I first announced the establishment of SGTradex in July 2021, as one of the initiatives under the Alliance for Action on Supply Chain Digitalisation.

The goal was to build a common data infrastructure, through public-private partnership, that would enable the trusted sharing of trade data.

Since then, Chin Hwee, Chong Meng and their team have worked with a range of partners including government agencies, financial institutions and supply chain ecosystem players to launch and roll out the platform. 

Let me first congratulate all the collaborators on your hard work so far. Your joint contributions have been critical to the successful lift-off of SGTraDex. 

SGTraDex is an important innovation in global trade and for Singapore, where the value of trade has for many years been more than 3 times our GDP.

For centuries, we have leveraged our strategic location to facilitate shipping and the movement of goods between Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world. By doing so, we have served as a key node in global supply chains.

Many of you here today are from the maritime industry, so you would recognise the contributions of trade and shipping to the Singapore economy. 

Trade has also contributed to growth and development globally. 

Since the World Trade Organisation was established in 1995, global trade volumes have grown by an annual average of 4%.

In that same period, global GDP per capita has more than doubled, from around US$5,400 to more than US$12,000. 

Through the global trading system, we have built interdependencies and connectivity across economies. This has increased access to, and lowered the prices of, many goods. 

The case for enabling and facilitating trade therefore remains strong, for it uplifts people and economies. 

At the same time, trade is facing new pressures.

Protectionist sentiments are growing in some countries.

The COVID pandemic severely disrupted supply chains, affecting the movement of goods across seas and borders. 

Shifts in geopolitics and geo-economics, like war, unrest and extreme climate events, have exacerbated this. In tandem, strategic contestation between the US and China has caused trade linkages to be re-examined in some markets.

In the past 2 years alone, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, tensions in the Middle East, and crop shortages resulting from floods or droughts, have highlighted vulnerabilities in global supply chains.

Most recently, instability in the Red Sea has brought about further adverse supply shocks, adding to shipping costs and delays.

Taken together, there is an urgent need to enhance the resilience of the supply chains and trade connectivity that we have grown familiar with over the past three decades. 

As the Chinese saying goes, 危机就是转机 - one can seize opportunities to turn a perilous situation into a positive one.

This was why I set up the Emerging Stronger Taskforce in May 2020 when we were in the thick of combating COVID. 

Minister Desmond Lee and Chong Meng stepped up to co-chair the Taskforce, bringing together a team of thoughtful leaders from industry, trade associations and chambers, the Labour Movement, and academia. 

They identified shifts that brought new challenges and opportunities, and formed 9 Alliances for Action to capture new growth areas. 

One of these shifts was the supply chain disruptions brought about by the pandemic. We therefore sought to harness digitalisation to help our enterprises mitigate the growing risks of fragmentation during COVID. 

And digitalisation continues to be a valuable asset to businesses today as they navigate an increasingly uncertain and possibly more fragmented world.

From its launch in 2022, SGTraDex has made significant progress, achieving more than 35 million transactions to date.

In 2023 alone, SGTraDex created S$500,000 worth of value for Singapore’s bunkering industry by facilitating faster payment cycles and enhancing credit availability. 

In particular, SGTraDex has enabled stronger bank financing confidence for small licensed bunker suppliers. This has translated into enhanced cashflow for these enterprises.

On the logistics front, SGTraDex also provides hauliers with visibility of their latest bookings, vessel data, and information on depot congestion. This will enable greater resource optimization and productivity. 

10% of hauliers in Singapore are currently already onboarded. The aim is to onboard 50% of hauliers, or around 1,400 trucks, by the end of this year.

Why are the numbers I just mentioned significant? Because SGTraDex was built on the premise that digitalisation can, and will, transform our economies in the years ahead.

In Singapore, we have made digitalisation a national priority.

It is an economic horizontal across our 23 Industry Transformation Maps, to encourage enterprises to transform and prepare for the next bound of growth.

Digitalisation is also a key plank of our national research agenda. 

We aim to harness the power of the digital revolution to build a healthier society and a greener, more future-ready economy.

To do so, it is fundamental that digital technologies are designed in a way that they can be easily and widely adopted. Here, three broad principles come to mind. 

First, digital platforms must be trusted and secure.

Strong data governance and stringent safeguards ensure legitimate and valuable interactions between contributors and users of data across systems.

In the case of SGTraDex, its data highway allows for the transfer of encrypted information among consenting parties. 

In other words, it is a neutral and secure platform that is accessible only to verified parties on SGTraDex.

Second, digital platforms must be scalable and interoperable.

This will help to increase usability and ease of adoption.

SGTraDex’s “plug and play” design, for example, has been enhanced to promote connectivity both among local supply chains, as well as between our local stakeholders and global supply chains.

Third, data shared must be timely and accessible to enable useful real-world applications.

SGTraDex allows for both the sharing and accessing of real-time data such as GPS locations of hauliers and ship vessels to optimise planning.

I mentioned at the start that SGTraDex was conceived from the outset as a public-private partnership.

Indeed, strong cross-sector collaboration is another key ingredient for the wide adoption and effectiveness of digital platforms and solutions.

Through such collaboration, we can ensure that digital innovations are both conceptually sound, as well as practically and commercially viable.

Digitalisation is not just about a destination, but a journey.

By working together, regulators, government agencies and end users in the private sector can better shape solutions through an iterative process. This is the spirit of the Alliances for Action.

SGTradex is also an excellent illustration of such cross-sectoral collaboration. 

The Government, through the Infocomm Media Development Authority or IMDA, provided the framework and building blocks to prototype the platform.

Industry came in to make sure that the solutions were in sync with real-world use-cases, to enable greater and faster adoption. 

Importantly, different sectors – from banking, commodity trading, and logistics to bunkering – pitched in to expand the usability of the product.

And government, industry and trade associations are working together to onboard more enterprises, and to continually refine the product to meet current and evolving needs.

The growing pool of users shows that SGTraDex is serving businesses well. 

77% of Singapore’s container depots are now integrated with the platform. 

SGTraDex also has strategic partnerships with 6 major global container shipping lines, which together account for about 35% of global container shipping volumes.

And there is still more that we can do. 

IMDA, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore or MPA, and Enterprise Singapore continue to support industry-wide digitalisation and data sharing efforts, to better mobilise partners to come on board the platform.

MPA continues to lead the implementation, and drive adoption, of digital bunkering to boost the efficiency and transparency of bunkering delivery processes in the maritime sector.

SGTraDex has previously studied that digital bunkering, through enhanced digital and financial connectivity, can save up to 40,000 man-days per year.

MPA announced the acceptance of electronic bunker delivery notes, or eBDN, from November 2023 and intends to require all issuance of bunker delivery notes in Singapore to go digital in due course.

MPA is also working with Enterprise Singapore and Workforce Singapore to support maritime companies to upskill manpower and accelerate the early adoption of digital bunkering.

Enterprise Singapore is also supporting SGTraDex Services to onboard haulier companies, depots and industry solution providers like transport management systems to drive digitalisation in the logistics sector.

We are off to a good start.  Building on this, let me suggest three ways that we can strengthen the platform further.

First, to continue to encourage adoption to increase the network effect of participants on SGTraDex.

We will be witnessing 3 more Memoranda of Understanding this afternoon that will boost adoption of the platform.

2 of the MOUs demonstrate the commitment of major shipping companies like PIL, Frontline and Golden Ocean and their bunker suppliers to fully digitise their bunkering operations in Singapore by leveraging SGTraDex’s capabilities.

Under the third MOU, SGTraDex will partner with PSA Marine and Advario to scale up voyage planning and optimization tool Chrysalis into a utility for the wider Singapore ecosystem.

I look forward to the continued support of the maritime community, in particular, for SGTraDex, including as advocates for its use if the platform serves your needs well.

Second, to demonstrate that SGTraDex can co-exist with national sustainability goals to potentially facilitate green outcomes.

As we strive to reap the benefits of digital transformation, we must also tackle a shared common challenge – climate change. The digital and green revolutions are intertwined.

As we continue to build up SGTraDex, we must also invest in how its digital solutions can help to pave the way for greener global trade and logistics.

Third, to grow the adoption of SGTraDex across borders. 

The real impact of digitalisation can be felt when it is amplified across regions and ecosystems. Trade is a win-win collaboration across economies.

I am happy to see India as a successful case of cross-border adoption, as well as future pilots in the works with the UK. 

I earlier spoke about Singapore’s historic role as a trading node between regions like Asia and Europe. Today, we aim to play the same connective role as a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise.

We have major maritime players present here today, anchored in Singapore with operations and presence spanning the globe.

As we digitalise trade, greater cross-border adoption of platforms like SGTraDex will help underscore Singapore’s continued value proposition to the world as a trade connector across different regions.

I am therefore pleased to learn that SGTraDex is collaborating with the Singapore Business Federation to enhance digital trade with our major trading partners, to enable paperless cross-border trade that can save time, reduce risk and lower carbon footprint for all stakeholders.

In conclusion, the fruits of digitalisation are best realised  when digital solutions are widely adopted. For this to happen, they must be trusted, secure, scalable, and interoperable, and their data must be timely and accessible.

Partnerships also help to drive wider adoption – between stakeholders from different sectors, as well as across borders.

This will foster solutions that are more efficient, innovative, and responsive to real-world needs.

Let me once again congratulate the SGTraDex team and your partners for your successful efforts at expanding the platform’s adoption in this initial phase of growth.

I look forward to further collaborations and innovations across the ecosystem, and across borders, to grow SGTraDex into an even more trusted, high-performance digital infrastructure that can serve Singapore, the region, and the world, in the years ahead. 

Finally, let me once again thank Chong Meng for coming up with the concept of Alliances for Action when he co-chaired the Emerging Stronger Task Force, as well as Chin Hwee for co-leading this particular Alliance for Action. 

I wish all of you productive discussions during the Conference ahead. Thank you.