The moves aim to double the proportion of locals among maritime officers here. Of the 20,000 officers on Singapore-flagged ships, only 1,605 - or less than 10 per cent - are Singaporeans.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday announced that an extra $22 million will go into the Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) programme.
"This will allow even more Singaporeans to pursue exciting nautical careers and provide the maritime industry with a healthy pipeline of young and competent officers," said Mr Gan, who was speaking at the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union's (SMOU) annual Chinese New Year luncheon.
Disbursed over a five-year period, the funding will come from the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), NTUC's Employment & Employability Institute (e2i), and the SMOU.
The money will go towards paying fees and monthly allowances of up to $1,400 for about 400 cadets under the programme.
Cadets in the programme, which has a minimum qualification criteria of three N-level passes and which typically lasts 31 months, pay around 10 per cent of the $28,000 course fee. The WDA and e2i will pay 80 per cent, while SMOU covers the rest.
Graduates will earn a Certificate of Competency from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and qualify as officers with job scopes ranging from navigating ships at sea to overseeing the transfer of cargo at ports. Depending on how far in rank he progresses, a maritime officer can earn a monthly wage of $2,800 to as much as $25,000 as captain of a Liquefied Natural Gas tanker.
More than 130 cadets and 13 shipping companies have so far participated in the TNTA programme, which has already received $6 million in funding since its launch in 2009.
SMOU's general secretary and Nominated MP Mary Liew said the union aims to increase the proportion of Singaporean maritime officers to 20 per cent by 2020.
Noting that the career is an unpopular choice among locals as it entails long periods away from home, she said the union plans to reach out to more schools by organising activities like career talks. "Many don't even know that being a maritime officer is a career option," Ms Liew said.
Mr Muhammad Hamizan Mohd Taha, 24, a cadet who started his training last October, said his parents initially had reservations about him being away from home.
But the youngest of three children eventually convinced them about his career choice. He said: "To be a seafarer is an adventure. I want to live independently and travel the world."
Captain Ken Yeow, executive director of Wavelink Maritime Institute, the training arm of SMOU, said it is vital to attract more Singaporeans.
"Today we are one of the top ports in the world...If we don't develop our Singapore core, we will be too dependent on foreigners, which is not good for us as a nation."