A Peek Into Singapore’s Maritime Industry
Singapore has had a long history in maritime that dates back to the 14th century that continues to play a vital role in Singapore’s economy till this day! As one of the busiest ports globally, the nation’s maritime industry accounts for about 7% of the country’s GDP and comprises over a whopping 170,000 people.
In the present day, Singapore has grown beyond being just a busy port. It is now also an International Maritime Centre (IMC) that hosts high concentrations of international shipping groups and maritime service providers, allowing for a more vibrant environment within the industry.
The sector offers a huge variety of job opportunities including, shipping, shipbuilding, repair, and marine engineering. As Singapore’s maritime industry continues to scale upwards, it is no surprise that there is now a rising demand for related job roles to support its growing size.
Diving Into the Role of a Tugmaster
To those seeking greater avenues to join the maritime sector without prior experience, look no further, Tugmasters are currently one of the various in-demand job roles within the maritime industry.
Tugmasters typically operate tugboats to move ships and other watercraft in and around harbours and ports. Some of their main duties include:
- Operating and maintaining a tugboat
Tugmasters are trained to navigate a tugboat; this includes learning to steer, accelerate, and decelerate the boat. They are also expected to maintain the boat by performing routine checks and repairs, along with ensuring that the boat is fueled and lubricated.
- Communicating with other vessels
For seamless operations, Tugmasters must communicate with other vessels in the surrounding area to ensure safe navigations.
- Manoeuvring ships
A Tugmaster is skilled in manoeuvring ships in and out of docks, berths and other tight spaces.
Becoming a Tugmaster
To dig deeper into a Tugmaster’s role, NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) headed down to Crystal Offshore, who has been supporting this initiative since 2017, to speak with two Tugmasters who have attended the Integrated Tugmaster and Helmsman programme.
This Career Conversion Programme was first piloted in 2014 as a joint initiative between e2i and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to create a structured pathway to train local Tugmasters for the harbour craft sector. It also helps individuals open the door to other different jobs within the Maritime sector.
51-year-old Mohamed Ashik was one of the Tugmasters we spoke to. Prior to becoming a Tugmaster, Ashik had worked several roles. Aside from working as a driver and a boarding officer, Ashik was also a satellite engineer for about 16 years!
Like many, Ashik’s livelihood was impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. While he lost his position as a boarding officer, a new opportunity arose. His employer, Crystal Offshore, informed him about the Integrated Tugmaster and Helmsman programme and pushed him to give it a try. Having had an eye on the offshore industry for a while, Ashik jumped at the opportunity, as making a break into the maritime industry was important for Ashik, and would provide him the necessary skill set to explore various offshore job roles as well.
Without this course, it would have been difficult to start from ground zero by myself (usually 5-6 years to get to where I am). I am thankful that joining this programme had quickened the process for me.
– Ashik, 50
Ashik, 51: I see myself working in this industry for the long-term.
Much like Ashik, 28-year-old Mohammed Hasif did not start off working in the maritime industry. Hasif was an IT technical consultant who majored in programming, but felt unsatisfied with his job and craved beyond. Grinning ear to ear, Hasif recalled fond memories of the adolescent years he spent on his father’s boat. He sheepishly mentioned that he always had a passion for the sea, and when he found out about the career opportunities that the Integrated Tugmaster and Helmsman Programme provided, he decided to give it a shot and did not look back.
“As a Tugmaster, I feel that I have taken on a leadership role.”, Hasif, on his job role at Crystal Offshore.
The Realities of Being A Tugmaster
Many admire offshore jobs for its serenity – there’s nothing quite like escaping the bustle of Singapore and surrounding yourself with the ocean. While Ashik and Hasif thoroughly enjoy their profession, they have made it clear that it’s not all fun and games.
Ashik stresses that these key qualities make a Tugmaster: mental and physical strength to take on the long hours that come with the job, firmness in adhering to safety precautions and adaptability to problem-solving when difficult situations arise on the job.
The Tugmaster’s role often involves dealing with unpredictable elements.
A Tugmaster’s daily life revolves around ensuring safety – the crew’s safety, personal safety and operational safety. When dealing with heavy and dangerous goods, it’s important that one has the physical capabilities to keep up with the job, the discipline to follow regulations closely and the responsibility to look out for their peers.
The Tugmaster is also required to thoroughly understand and comply with the port limit industry when looking after the tugboat’s movement. According to Hasif, sometimes a day’s work may extend to a week, depending on the clients they are working with. In peak seasons and longer periods out at sea, they may be required to live on the boats – where they will cook their own meals and sleep in their air-conditioned cabins below deck.
The role is not an easy feat, there are long hours and busy schedules but there are benefits as well. On off-project seasons, a Tugmaster’s role could mainly focus on administrative tasks and tug maintenance. Often, companies provide compensation for the long hours worked and this may come in allowance or extended off-in-lieus.
Ashik performs regular checks on a tug boat.
How do you become a Tugmaster?
With the updated Integrated Tugmaster and Helmsman programme, you can speed up the process of becoming a Tugmaster. The training is only 16 months long and includes theory as well as on-the-job training. Trainees will learn the ropes of navigation, operations, maintenance and law. They will also be bonded with companies to perform their on-the-job training and prior experience is not required for this programme. Hired individuals will be fully subsidised for the entire course of the training by participating programme partners.
e2i provides end-to-end support for trainees in this programme. We aid in matching job seekers to credible trainers, preparing trainees for the interviews prior to company-matching, and providing opportunities for employment.
Ashik and Hasif with their trainer.
Job seekers interested in joining the maritime sector or becoming a Tugmaster can drop an email to [email protected] to find out more information.