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Setting sail on a maritime career

When Mr Biondi Phua heard of a lesser-known scholarship offered by the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), he set out to learn more about it and the industry.

His interest was piqued when he learnt about the huge part MPA plays to develop and shape maritime Singapore and advance and safeguard the nation’s maritime strategic interest.

The 28-year-old is drawn to ships and is intrigued by how these huge objects are able to move vast amounts of cargo over waters. Besides, Singapore is a major shipping hub and the possibility of building a career in the maritime industry appealed to him.

He says: “With the maritime industry contributing 7 per cent to Singapore’s GDP, I felt a career with MPA has good prospects while allowing me to contribute to our nation, in terms of the economy and industry development.”

Seizing opportunities

The scholarship from MPA made it possible for Mr Phua to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

He says: “To me, the best thing about this scholarship was the opportunity to pursue an overseas education. With this scholarship, I was able to study in a place as wonderful and vibrant as New York City.”

His undergraduate studies also provided him with a good foundation in maritime issues, with the curriculum covering topics such as marine engineering, maritime law and many other sub-jects important to the task of running a large ship.

A marine surveyor today, Mr Phua conducts inspections and surveys of Singapore flagged ships.

The in-depth knowledge on ship design and construction as well as the operations of ships he gained in college comes in handy at work.

Thanks to internship opportunities at MPA’s shipping division during semester breaks, he is familiar with the work of the division, where he is also currently posted.

He says: “A degree in marine engineering, the internship and subsequent posting to the shipping division provided me with opportunities to deepen my knowledge and familiarise myself with the operations in MPA.

“This allowed me to specialise and become a subject matter expert in my area of work,” he says.

He also gives the thumbs up for the invaluable opportunities and exposure provided by MPA to hone his skills since he began his career in 2013. These includ-ed the chance to go on overseas work trips to MPA’s International Maritime Offices as well as attend regional training courses.

He notes: “These platforms were eye-opening experiences as I saw how we had to cooperate with our foreign counterparts while championing our causes.”

Managing roles

As a scholar, Mr Phua is also given opportunities to take on secretariat duties for senior management meetings. This allows him to interact with the top brass, while exposing him to important issues deliberated by them.

What Mr Phua enjoys most about his work is the balance between being in the office and out in the field. He carries out ship inspections and surveys at Singapore’s port terminals and anchorages, as well as various shipyards and ferry terminals.

Back in the office, he handles technical applications from shipping companies.

Occasionally, he is involved in the formulation of new regulations and policies to be implemented for Singapore flagged ships to comply with.

“This dual role allows me to see the entire regulatory process through –— from the drafting stages to implementing and rolling out these regulations to ensure that they are adopted by shipping companies, to finally seeing these regulations on board the vessels and ships during routine inspections and surveys.

“If not for this scholarship, I wouldn’t have such a different and interesting job,” he says.