SINGAPORE'S maritime industry is an extensive ecosystem. The industry contributes about 7 per cent of gross domestic product, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

Singapore is also home to a broad range of services for ship owners and operators. For instance, there is a niche in the financial services market. There are more than 20 banks with shipping portfolios.

Said an MPA spokesman: "Marine insurance is also burgeoning. Players such as Lloyd's Syndicates and the International Group Protection & Indemnity Clubs are represented here.

"Meanwhile, ship-broking firms have gone beyond the usual services. Many provide research and consultancy.

"Singapore is also fast becoming Asia's hub for maritime law and arbitration. More than 200 known transactions have adopted the Singapore Ship Sale Form, launched in January 2011."

Sale Forms are standard form contracts used by shipbrokers who act as agents for the sellers and buyers of ships. Previously, there were two sale forms: The Norwegian and the Nippon Sale Forms.

The spokesman said: "The Singapore Ship Sale Form was designed to be simpler and more user-friendly."

Singapore is also well placed to become a key global centre for maritime conferences and events.

The annual Singapore Maritime Week brings together the global maritime community for a week of sharing, learning and networking.

The growth of the maritime industry provides myriad opportunities for employment. Maritime professionals enjoy access to maritime education and training programmes for upgrading.

The $50 million Maritime Cluster Fund - Manpower Development programme supports over 200 short courses in training and skills upgrading. Last year, about 4,400 people benefited from such programmes, the spokesman said.

Students keen to pursue maritime careers can opt for courses and modules at the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities.

The spokesman added: "Singapore's commitment to maritime research and development has also put us in the forefront of innovation. We work closely with academia and industry.

"Singapore's position as a major hub port and international maritime centre has encouraged maritime and technology companies to leverage on local R&D capabilities and test-bedding facilities.

"This puts them in a prime position to reach out to the global maritime market with cutting-edge products and services."

The $150 million Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund set up by MPA supports local tertiary and research institutes to develop their maritime R&D capabilities.

The spokesman said: "As the maritime sector here expands and diversifies, the growth opportunities for maritime professionals and businesses will only expand."