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Why this aspiring computer scientist has her sights set on a career in the maritime industry

Captions: Undergraduate Or Yi Ning looks forward to defying the male-dominated stereotype of the maritime industry. PHOTO: JASPER YU


By Audrey Ng

While her coursemates are hoping to break into the financial and tech-related sectors, Nanyang Technological University student Or Yi Ning has set her sights on the maritime industry. 

It may seem like an odd pick, considering that the 21-year-old is currently pursuing a double degree in computer science and business (specialising in Business Analytics). 

When looking at scholarships to apply for, she was interested in the maritime industry but did not think that it would offer as many career developmental opportunities as the technology industry. 

But after doing some research, she realised that the rapid, ongoing digitalisation of the sector would require skill sets like hers, and that spurred her to apply for the PSA – MaritimeONE Scholarship.

“I applied for this scholarship because I want to work in an industry that is evolving with boundless opportunities and a commitment to innovation,” says Ms Or.


Full steam ahead on transformation 

It looks like Ms Or is on the right course. The maritime sector has indeed been evolving, with the Government driving its digitalisation to cement Singapore’s status as a maritime hub. Such efforts were ongoing even before the pandemic struck, which disrupted global supply chains, closed ports and delayed shipping times.  

Notable initiatives include the digitalPORT@SG, a one-stop clearance platform for vessel-related transactions; the recognition of electronic bills of lading (eBLs) to replace paper versions in February; and the building of the Tuas Port which will be the world’s largest fully automated container port when it is completed in 2040.

As the industry continues in its digitalisation push, more jobs are created and more skilled workers are needed to fill these roles. Last October, the Government announced 1,000 training slots, company attachments and traineeship opportunities in the sector, in areas that include automation systems, digital transformation, shipping operations and maritime superintendency.

“With rapid digitisation, technical skills such as data science and analytical skills are becoming more important. Other valuable skills include agile development methodologies and UI/UX design, cyber security, full stack development, and artificial intelligence,” says a PSA spokesperson.

To Ms Or, it is an exciting time for her to join the industry.       

“There are many skills that can be applied to the industry, from business and data analytics to software and systems development. In time, machine learning and artificial intelligence will also become more important,” she adds.     

However, increasing digitalisation also comes with specific risks, particularly in the area of cyber security. According to a report in The Straits Times in May, while the threat of a cyber attack on Singapore’s critical infrastructure services remains low, the maritime sector has been in the crosshairs of hackers, say the members of an international panel appointed by the Cyber Security Agency
of Singapore.

“The explosion of data science, the Internet of Things, predictive technologies and artificial intelligence means that automation and digitalisation will be key elements of the maritime industry for years to come. It is more important than ever to have a robust cyber security system in place. Innovation and automation in PSA’s port operations enable us to stay competitive and improve operational efficiency,” says a PSA spokesperson. 


Real-world application 

Cyber security is one area where future computer science graduates like Ms Or will be able to contribute. As part of an internship at PSA Corporation’s Cyber Security Department in May last year, she helped build data dashboards and worked on phishing security to safeguard PSA’s online systems. 

Her knowledge of programming language Java came in useful in writing automation scripts to extract cyber security data from dashboards, speeding up a previously manual process. She also learnt how business analytics can be applied to make sense of data and to inform the organisation’s decision-making. 

Ultimately, Ms Or hopes to contribute to the maritime industry, applying what she has learnt in school – whether it is business analytics or programming – when she graduates.

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