Connected by the Sea

Published by Norway-Asia Business Review
 

Norway in Singapore are two allies spanning continents, but they are strong allies nevertheless. This is visible in the number of Norwegian businesses located in Singapore.
 

Norwegian Business Association Singapore (NABS) estimates there are close to 200 Norwegian companies established in Singapore and these companies represent one of the highest concentration of Norwegian business interests in any city in the world outside of Norway. Close to 150 Norwegian companies are members of NBAS.
 

We talked with Ambassador to Singapore since August this year, Ms Anita Nergaard, about the close relations between the two countries and her priorities for the years to come.
 

“Singapore is an exciting and fascinating place. When I arrived, Team Norway in Singapore already had a very busy agenda. It will be my priority to take this forward, in particular building on the very good relationship we have within shipping and the maritime sector. However, we will also look at what more we can do when it comes to the high-tech sector, so digitalisation, automation and advanced technologies. This is relevant both within the maritime sector and beyond. Technology is also a broader focus since the entire economy is moving into the direction of digitalisation.”

Because of this digital revolution and the importance of technology to both Norway and Singapore, the two countries may also address the risks relating to high-tech together. “Cyber security is certainly an important part of the security environment today. We follow up on cyber security as part of the broader security policy. We have a dialogue with Singapore on a range of political and security-related issues like terrorism, violent extremism and cybersecurity.”
 

Ambassador Nergaard explains the reason for Norwegian companies to choose Singapore as their base. “Singapore is a hub in different sectors. We see very clearly that Singapore is a state of the art maritime hub and that explains why so many Norwegian companies – from the entire value chain – are here.” Singapore is not just a hub for the maritime sector according to Ambassador Nergaard. “We also see how Singapore implements its vision to become a hub for other sectors as well, like the financial sector and within research and development. This is visible in government-funded and privately-funded think tanks, incubators and accelerators, and a very wide and active investor segment.”
 

Therefore, for many types of businesses this is a good place to be. Singapore can function as a gateway to Asia. “When we present the opportunities we can find in Singapore; we compare it to Silicon Valley. Especially if you are a smaller start-up company and you want to go abroad, you could choose between two fertile and innovative climates in the world. One would be Silicon Valley and the other would be Singapore, depending on the companies’ technologies and where they think their future markets could be.”
 

In general, “[t]here are certain advantages companies considering Singapore would be wise to consider,” Ambassador Nergaard states. “There is already a considerable Norwegian presence here so it could be easier to set up shop here. You would meet many others from Norway. It is also very easy to set up a company here; you could set up a company within days. Furthermore, it is a very safe environment with a predictable framework, like the tax regime. We see that many companies use it as a hub for Asia or as a gateway to other Asian markets. Of course, not all companies need to have to come here. It really depends on their business.”
 

Norway and Singapore not only work together on the business side. They also join forces in tackling political and social issues together. On 29 September 2017, Arctic Frontiers together with the Embassy hosted a seminar in Singapore about climate change seen first in the Arctic. “Arctic climate is important as we heard from the keynote speaker Dr. Jan-Gunnar Winther from the Norwegian Polar Institute. He was underlining a couple of reasons why he thought this was important to Singapore and countries like Singapore in this region. Those reasons were echoed by the participants from Singapore. First of all, climate change with the melting of ice could lead to rising sea levels. In the Arctic you can see these changes more clearly and earlier than in the rest of the world,” says Ambassador Nergaard.
 

Secondly, the opening of the Northern Sea Route presents opportunities as well as challenges to all maritime nations. Asian countries including Singapore, China, India, Japan and South Korea, have been observer states in the Arctic Council since 2013. Singaporean Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Manpower, Mr Sam Tan addressed the issue of the Arctic and climate change during the opening remarks of the seminar.
 

“The future of the Arctic’s environmental wellbeing is also critical for Singapore and Southeast Asia. We are concerned about rising sea levels. Singapore is a low-lying island with almost 30 percent of the land less than 5m above the mean sea level. In fact, our National Climate Change Secretariat, which develops and implements Singapore’s domestic and international policies to tackle climate change, has predicted that sea levels will rise between 0.25-0.76m towards the end of the century due to climate change and global warming. The Arctic is a globally significant barometer of the impending changes in our world. In my travels to countries such as Canada and Norway, it is often said that whatever happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Vice versa however, whatever happens outside the Arctic does not stay outside the Arctic as well,” says Minister Tan, as reflected on the website of Arctic Frontiers.
 

But melting arctic ice also opens up new sea routes as Ambassador Nergaard explains. “The melting sea ice also opens up the Northern sea route – the route from northern Europe passed Norway and along the Russian Arctic all the way down to South Korea, Japan and China. That route is becoming more accessible as a result of climate change. And that will have a potential effect on shipping. The passage is around 40% shorter than the normal route.”
 

This brings opportunities also for Singapore. “In particular, the opening of new Arctic water channels, such as the Northern Sea Route, could significantly reduce shipping travel time between Asia and Europe. This could give a boost to the maritime industry although the full cost of commercial transportation in the new shipping lanes is still not fully known. A new shipping route could also complement Singapore, which has one of the world’s busiest ports, receiving about 120,000 vessels each year. This translates to 300 ships every day and 12 ships every hour. As a seafaring nation, our maritime industry has developed decades of experience and strong credentials in shipbuilding and repair, offshore engineering, port operation and marine support services. Singapore can further contribute to the development of maritime infrastructure to help facilitate safe shipping in the Arctic region,” according to Minister Tan.
 

The favourable business climate for the maritime, technology and finance industries, makes Singapore an option to consider when looking at places to set up a company in Asia. Especially since Singapore is taking over the chairmanship of the ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in 2018. Follow the latest developments through the newsletter of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Singapore. And feel free to contact the embassy for support and advice regarding business activities as well as regular consular services.
 

Facts:

  • Around 200 Norwegian companies are established in Singapore; the highest concentration of Norwegian businesses in any city outside of Norway;
  • Close to 150 Norwegian companies are members of the Norwegian Business Association Singapore;
  • Singapore has almost 30 percent of the land less than 5m above the mean sea level;
  • Singapore receives around 120,000 vessels each year, or 300 ships every day and 12 ships an hour;
  • Together with China, India, Japan and South Korea, Singapore joined the Arctic Council as observer states in 2013;
  • In 2018 Singapore will take over the ASEAN chair.

 

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