ANCHORED IN SINGAPORE HISTORY : THE STORY OF THE MARINE INDUSTRY
Voice for the Industry
Made in Singapore
Positioning the Keel Blocks
A Remarkable Story of Growth
No. 1 Centre in Shiprepair
A Future in Industrial Engineering
A Marine Powerhouse
Confronting the Issues
VOICE FOR THE INDUSTRY
1968 was a red letter year for the Singapore maritime industry. It gave birth to Keppel Shipyard, Sembawang Shipyard, Singapore Shipbuilding & Engineering, Neptune Orient Lines and Jurong Shipbuilders.This was more than just a happy coincidence. It was the culmination of a year-long effort by a top-level committee to co-ordinate and develop all aspects of shipping, including shipbuilding and repair.
In that momentous year, the Singapore Association of Shipbuilders and Repairers (SASAR) was formed by Vosper Thornycroft Uniteers, Eagle Engineering, Jurong Shipyard, PSA Dockyard Department, Selco Group, Weng Chan Engineering, Straits Engineers, Kwong Soon Engineering, Ho Ah Lam Boatbuilders and Cathay Shipbuilding. The ten represented a third of the shipyards in operation.
SASAR's early objective was modest, to develop shipbuilding and repair, to increase the exports of Singapore ships and boats. The marine industry may have grossed over $100 million that year, but the potential was seen to be far bigger. Only if the shipyards knew how to promote themselves.
After a successful marketing trip in 1965, Director and General Manager of Thornycroft (Malaysia), John Wilde told The Straits Times: "I am hoping to form an organisation like the Society of Boat Builders and Manufacturers in Britain so that we can get together on an export drive. This is what the Government wants. I have spoken to some people and their reaction is favourable." Mr Wilde, who became SASAR's first President, told members that "any ship built or repaired in Singapore is a traveling 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 that small beginning, the association has grown in tandem with the marine industry. Companies whose activities were directly connected with shipbuilding and repair were accepted first as associate members, then as full members, in recognition that every service was an indispensable part of the entire marine infrastructure.
The constitution was amended in 1988 and the name altered to the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) to reflect this wider representation. Logical though it may be, the changeover generated its fair share of debate among SASAR members. A prime consideration was leadership. The SASAR President Loh Wing Siew recalled that fears were raised that major shipyards might find themselves in the cold if the constitution were to place companies with 3,000 workers and three workers on par - with the right to one vote in an election.
After due consideration he decided it would not be to the advantage of supporting services to assume control and turn ASMI into a non-shipyard association. Noted Mr Loh: It won't benefit them. They make sure that a major yard takes the leadership. They are dependent on shipyards."
Nevertheless, a safeguard was written into the constitution. Only ordinary members who have not less than 150 employees or a paid-up capital of not less than $1 million can make nominations for the posts of president, vice presidents, honorary secretary and honorary treasurer. The logo, an interlink of the letters A S M I, was unveiled by then Second Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Ong Teng Cheong.
Today, the association has a 138-strong membership in shiprepairing, rigbuilding, shipbuilding, industrial engineering and support servicing. The concerns may differ from the past, but 25 years on, ASMI is no less relevant as the voice of the industry.
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