Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill – Speech by Dennis Tan

(Delivered in Parliament on 2 October 2017)


The new Part XIIA

A major part of the amendments in this Bill is none other than the introduction of a new Part XIIA relating to the control of designated public licensees, designated business trusts and designated equity interest holders.

The new Part XIIA which includes Sections 86A to 86L is being introduced notwithstanding the existing provisions in say Sections 81-89. The existing Sections 81-89 already provide guidelines on conditions to be set upon grant of public licences. For example, Section 81(5)(a) provides that conditions in a public licence may contain control and restriction, directly or indirectly, on the creation, holding or disposal of shares in the public licensee.

The new Part XIIA sets out new, detailed and onerous requirements including an obligation for a person becoming a 5% controller of a designated entity to notify the authorities and a person needing to seek prior approval before becoming a 25%, 50% or 75% controller or an indirect controller of a designated entity. There are various remedial directions which can be given by the authority when there is a breach. There is a very detailed section on what it means to be an associate or subsidiary for purposes of determining direct or indirect controller of a designated entity.

I would like to know more about the rationale for the introduction of these new requirements. Can the Senior Minister of State (SMS) please elaborate on why it is necessary for the change to requiring such onerous requirements from the licensees?

I would also like to know whether there was any incident in the recent past relating to the change of control of existing public licensee or business trust which might have some adverse implications on the operation of any licence or services in question or on our ports or the security of our ports and which may have spurred the Government to introduce these onerous new requirements.  If so, will the SMS please share with this House the details of any such past incident?

Under the existing provisions, if there is any contravention of the conditions for a public licence, the authority may cancel or suspend its licence or require the payment of a fine as it thinks fit. I am referring to Section 84(1). I am not in favour of any fine that can be decided at the complete discretion of the authority which is the existing law. Unfortunately, Section 84(1) will remain.  What is worse is that under the proposed Section 86I, the proposed punishments include fines not exceeding $500,000 or $1 million and imprisonment of 3 years or both fines and imprisonment. These are very heavy penalties indeed. May the SMS explain the need for such heavy punishments?


Designating public licensee etc

Mr Speaker, the new Section 86D empowers the authority to designate a public licensee, the relevant business trust managed by a trustee manager who is a public licensee, or a person who holds equity interest in any public licensee or business trust, as a designated public licensee, designated business trust or designated equity interest holder. Such designation may only be made by the authority, after consultation with the Minister, if it considers that it is necessary in the public interest. Mr Speaker, in respect of this Section, I would like to seek the SMS’s clarifications:

  • I would like to know why is there a provision for designated public licensee, business trust and equity interest holders?
  • What would qualify as – I quote- “necessary in the public interest”? Will the SMS please elaborate on the considerations which will be taken in account when the Authority is making such a designation?
  • Will the SMS be able to share any examples?
  • Why are the considerations not set out explicitly in Section 86D?
  • Wouldn’t such a bare provision affect the consistency and or certainty of its application or even be subject to abuse?


Notice to authority by 5% controller

Mr Speaker, the proposed Section 86E requires that if a person becomes a 5% controller of a designated public licensee holder, designated business trust or a designated equity interest holder as a result of an increase in the holding of equity interest or in the voting power controlled by that person or any associate of that person, he must notify the authority in writing. May I ask the SMS what is the rationale for this?

Wouldn’t the new provisions in Section 86F requiring persons to seek prior approval before becoming 25%, 50% or 75% controller of designated entities be sufficient?


Regulation of inland craft

Another important change which this Bill seeks to do is to have MPA regulate inland watercraft, a role which will be taken over from PUB. Under the new Part XIIIA of this Bill, MPA will take over the regulatory roles relating to construction, maintenance, safe operation and navigation and the crew manning requirements and other aspects of inland craft. Permits for use on inland waterways and reservoir remain under the authority of PUB and rightly so. This is a change in the right direction as MPA is the more appropriate authority for waterborne vessels and craft.

Mr Speaker, I would like to seek some clarifications for the SMS. Operationally, how will MPA ensure that, on the ground, all vessels or inland craft operate safely and in compliance with all regulations governing safe operation and navigation in the reservoirs and inland waterways? Will PUB still be working with MPA in this area and if so, what will be their role on the ground?

Mr Speaker, notwithstanding the clarifications I am seeking, I support the bill.