Speech by Mr Goh Teik Poh

MONDAY, 20 MAY 2013, 5.30PM (SESSION 9)


Mr Tan Choon Shian, Principal and CEO, Singapore Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests,

Parents and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening.

  1. It is a pleasure to join all of you to celebrate your graduation. In a short while, 325 graduands from the Singapore Maritime Academy will be receiving their diplomas in Marine Engineering, Maritime Business, Maritime Transportation Management and Nautical Studies. This marks the successful completion of your studies at Singapore Polytechnic and the beginning of the next phase of your lives. This is a proud moment for you and your loved ones. My heartiest congratulations to all of you.

SMA Prepares Graduates to be Work-Ready, Life-Ready and World-Ready

  1. SMA has been contributing towards Singapore’s maritime education and training since 1957. It is Singapore’s premier maritime education and training academy that prepares future talents to be work ready, life ready and world ready. Like some of you today, I graduated from SMA with a Diploma in Nautical Studies and a Class 3 Certificate of Competency in 1983. I benefitted from the education and training that SMA provided and it prepared me well for the challenges that lay ahead.

  2. SMA grooms professionals for the maritime industry with its state-of-the-art facilities and committed staff. Students at SMA benefit from a holistic education that not only offers skills relevant for the workforce but also character development. SMA value-adds to the students’ learning by offering better facilities, more out-of-classroom activities, industry exposure and innovative curriculums. Every student from the various SMA courses would have spent some time in the industry to enable them to get a glimpse of the working world but more importantly, for you to understand what would be expected of you when you leave this learning ground. Amongst you, there are those who have had the opportunity to travel overseas under various programmes such as Overseas Immersion Programmes to Japan and Korea, Overseas Internship Training Programme in China, Overseas Community Service in Sarawak and even sail onboard the world’s fastest sailing tall ship with a crew of Russian cadets all the way to Vietnam. These programmes enabled interaction with people beyond our shores, to understand other cultures which may be quite different from ours and to learn to adapt to very different lifestyles. This is the reality of the world today where you will work with people of various nationalities and backgrounds, especially in the maritime industry.

  3. Recently, I had the opportunity to join some SMA students on one of the Maritime Experiential Learning Camp or MEL Camp, on board the cruise ship, Superstar Virgo. It was a 4-day voyage to Penang and Phuket. At least 50% of SMA students would have undertaken this programme before they graduate. Together with the SMA students, there were also overseas students from Japan. Students on the trip would have to sit through various talks designed to motivate them or to give them further insight on the maritime industry. They would have to work together for the presentations and to learn together as they explore the inner workings of the ship such as tours on the navigation bridge, engine room and even the waste management system.

  4. I was very pleased to see the students enjoying the onboard learning experience and the interaction with other students and lecturers. During my time at SMA, we had to make do with only classroom lectures and could only imagine what it would be like to sail onboard a cruise ship!

  5. The many awards and accolades that SMA has earned over the years is an acknowledgement by the international maritime community of the quality maritime education and training that it provides. A recent achievement is the “Excellence in Training Development Award” at the Singapore International Maritime Awards 2013 organised by The Maritime and Port of Authority of Singapore during the Singapore Maritime Week in April.  This award was presented by the Minister for Transport to SMA for demonstrated commitment and excellence in training and development. While these awards are flattering, all of you graduands are actually SMA’s greatest achievements. As graduates, all of you are the ambassadors and representatives of SMA. You are part of an established institution with global recognition. We count on all of you to uphold this reputation with your respective employers and colleagues and show that the training that you have undergone will benefit your employers and yourselves.

Personal sharing on career in the maritime industry

  1. I am proud to have come from SMA. The diploma course armed me with the relevant skills as I started my sailing career with NOL as a Deck Cadet. I sailed for six years onboard various container ships and general cargo ships. Shipboard life was very interesting. There was never a dull moment. Apart from the hard skills learnt at SMA there were also the soft skills that one learns at sea such as: human interaction, inter-personal skills, perseverance, patience, trust, integrity and dealing with adversity.

  2. At sea we all learnt very quickly about teamwork, working with others and interacting with colleagues of different nationalities. Some ships had up to 12 different nationalities onboard - a mini UN in itself.  As cadets we were called upon to function as a team to get things done at odd hours of the day or night.  We were required to be hands-on and get ourselves dirty cleaning bilges or doing chipping and painting as part of shipboard maintenance. There was no room for picking and choosing tasks - we just had to do it.  At sea we’re all taught to be self-sufficient and to be able to improvise and fix things - we could not rely on shore assistance.

  3. Things aren’t always rosy onboard ships. However, we learnt to adapt and make the best of difficult situations. Teamwork is critical in addressing and overcoming the various shipboard problems we faced. We may not always agree with our colleagues on certain decisions however we had to take a collective decision and move on. 

  4. After six years at sea I was sponsored by NOL to do an undergraduate degree in Maritime Commerce in UK. All the skill sets I learnt at sea and at SMA helped me in my undergraduate studies. I was a mature student  (27 years old) when I began my studies in UK - long after many of my classmates had graduated. Upon graduation three years later, I began my shore-based career in NOL.  I was given the opportunity to work in operations, corporate planning, general management, HR, etc. over the course of my 32 year stint with NOL. I had a thoroughly enjoyable career with overseas stints in India, and US and was blessed with the opportunity to work with colleagues in Europe, Americas and Asia in a truly global  industry. I am enriched with this experience of working across cultures and different time zones and in overcoming numerous work challenges. And to think of what I would have missed if I had not made the decision to embark on a maritime career all those years ago. I am grateful to SMA and NOL for the good training and exposure which I was provided with.

  5. One of the most rewarding experiences for me was the opportunity to work in India for 3.5 years. I was based in Mumbai and responsible as Country Manager for commercial and operational functions in India. I made many good friends among the customers and colleagues and these relationships remain to this very day.

  6. While job opportunities are present, so is competition; not forgetting that Singapore's foreign workforce is now at about 1/3 of our total workforce (excluding foreign domestic workers). The maritime industry is truly international in nature hence we need to be able to learn from and compete with the best in the world. If we can put ourselves in the shoes of our foreign colleagues and see the world through their eyes we can learn from them the nuances of doing business successfully in their respective countries. A healthy understanding of the different cultural nuances and viewpoints of those whom we work with will provide us with a personal competitive advantage.  

Giving Back to SP

  1. I am privileged to continue my journey with the SP family as a Member of the Board of Governors and the Chairman of SMA’s Maritime Industry Advisory Committee. I sincerely wish and hope that many of you will find the maritime industry a rewarding and enjoyable one and will in turn help strengthen Singapore’s position as a vibrant  International Maritime Hub and put SMA and SP on the global map. I look forward to seeing many of you take on key roles in Singapore’s maritime industry in the years to come.

  2. On this note, I would like to once again congratulate all graduands. I wish all of you great success in all that you do. 


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