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Climbing into the crow's nest

As a young girl, Ms Loh Sin Yee often went to the beach with her father.

But instead of building sandcastles or searching for seashells, the pair would spend hours ship-watching, identifying the various vessels anchored along the coastline.

That childhood interest in ships has since grown into a full-fledged appreciation for the maritime industry.

Ms Loh, 32, says: “As I grew older, I realised the importance of Singapore’s maritime industry, which allows us to remain connected and relevant as an international trading hub. I was attracted to its diversity and buzz.”

That led to her decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2005. Although she applied to several other organisations for a scholarship, she eventually decided on the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) Undergraduate Scholarship.

“I believed the MPA scholarship would be the best starting point into the maritime sector, and I was excited to understand and challenge myself across the different functions that MPA takes on.”

After graduating from NTU in 2009, Ms Loh kicked off her maritime career by joining MPA’s planning division. Her role required her to monitor, analyse and benchmark the domestic, regional and international economic performance of the Singapore Maritime Cluster, based on indicators such as productivity and workforce dependency, before producing strategic plans that ensure long-term competitiveness.

She then moved on to its International Maritime Centre (IMC) division, which aims to build a vibrant maritime ecosystem in Singapore. As an account manager, Ms Loh had to engage with senior management from key international shipping groups to understand their business needs and help them set up their shipping operations here.

“The role definitely deepened my global perspectives and confidence in working with international partners,” she says.

Bigger picture
In 2014, Ms Loh was appointed to the Public Service Leadership Programme. She moved to the Ministry of Transport (MOT), where for almost three years, she explored the possibilities of innovative disruptive technologies and how to best translate such technologies into national-level policies and strategies.

She says: “I led a joint project between MOT and PSA Corporation to develop and test an autonomous truck platooning system, which might be the answer to manpower constraint and improve efficiency in freight delivery.”

She also spent two years at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, working on the third Enabling Masterplan. Now back at MPA as a senior manager with the IMC, Ms Loh is set to drive the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map through partnerships with both internal and external stakeholders.

One of the key areas she wants to focus on is supporting maritime enterprises as they digitalise and adopt digital solutions to be more productive — a challenging task as the diversity of the sea transport sector means there are various companies at different levels of readiness for technologies.

“We have to understand and experiment with our policies, initiatives and approaches in working with diverse stakeholders, who may face very different challenges, to help them digitalise.”