AS OF January this year, Singapore has been elected into the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Council for the 2015-2017 term. Currently, Singapore participates in some 80 ISO standards development committees, covering areas such as quality management, energy management and occupational health and safety management systems that help enhance quality, resource efficiency and safety.

"With a seat in the ISO Council, Singapore can now play a greater role in influencing the development of policies that will help build up the global standards community. Since 80 per cent of the commodity trade is impacted by standards, these policies are critical in developing international standards which address global and local needs," says Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive (Quality & Excellence), Spring Singapore.

"Singapore seeks to strengthen some of the existing ISO policies to take Asia-Pacific needs into consideration and improve the capabilities of more Asia-Pacific members so that they can participate in ISO work."

Being in the Council will put Singapore in a better position in ensuring that ISO strategies continue to support international trade and capacity building in the region.

It will also help to champion development of new ISO standards such as infrastructure-related and management systems-related standards that will support Singapore's enterprises. This push is expected to garner greater participation from our own industries to develop international standards that are relevant to Singapore's industries and enterprises, particularly SMEs, says Ms Choy.

"This will shape the future direction of our local industries to become even more relevant and resilient in today's evolving business landscape and ensure they are competitively positioned to access existing and new export markets and growth opportunities."

Creating a solid foundation

Infrastructure development is one of the top priorities in many countries - particularly developing economies - today given that infrastructure provides the basic services and facilities needed by an economy, such as homes, commercial buildings, plants, roads, bridges, water supply, sewers, electrical grids and telecommunications. It is thus imperative to ensure that relevant standards are in place.

While there are existing standards that support infrastructure development, urbanisation is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, and new infrastructure standards are required to better integrate emerging infrastructure technologies and systems, notes Ms Choy.

Innovative technologies, processes and systems, supported by research and development, need to be developed to address the complex and multi-disciplinary challenges in the infrastructure sector.

To this effect, Spring Singapore recently collaborated with the ISO Regional Office in Singapore to organise an Infrastructure Forum in Singapore, bringing in global and local experts to discuss and develop a road map of international standards for the infrastructure sector. This road map will include standards in emerging areas such as Smart Cities, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Singapore can contribute experts to help develop new standards, taking into consideration its leadership in some of these infrastructure development areas as well as incorporating the needs of the Asia-Pacific region, says Ms Choy.

"Leading companies, industry players and relevant government agencies can also contribute in the development of these new standards. By participating, companies will benefit from directly influencing the standard, gaining access to information that could shape global markets in the future, and facilitate their planning of future designs and production methods to enable wider access for their products and services in export markets."

For example, Singapore has participated in two ISO technical committees which have worked on and since published two standards: The ISO/TS 12720:2014 Sustainability in buildings and civil engineering works - Guidelines on the application of the general principles in ISO 15392; as well as ISO/TR 37150:2014 Smart community infrastructures - Review of existing activities relevant to metrics. The first framework measures the environmental performance of buildings and sustainability indicators for civil engineering works, while the second framework looks at smart community infrastructure metrics, including quality of life indicators.

It is compelling that this surge in infrastructure development comes at a time when there are many global challenges such as the scarcity of resources, climate change, quality of living, ageing population and environmental protection.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Capital Project and Infrastructure Spending: Outlook to 2025, in 2014 highlighted that Asia-Pacific will lead the way in infrastructure spending. This spending is expected to grow by 7-8 per cent a year over the next decade, approaching some US$5 trillion annually by 2025, and representing 60 per cent of the world's total spending, notes Ms Choy.

"To address all the considerations and challenges, tomorrow's infrastructure needs to be more sustainable and resilient, and designed to withstand greater variations in operating conditions."

Pioneering standards

It is not just in the area of infrastructure standards that Singapore is leading the way. Indeed, Singapore has developed a number of key national standards which were subsequently adopted internationally.

For instance, Singapore was the first country to develop and implement bunkering standards.

"In the early 1990s, there was no universally accepted procedure and method for a bunker delivery operation that provided a fair transaction of bunker fuel. Recognising the need for standards in bunkering, Singapore was the first in the world to develop and implement bunkering standards covering documentation, equipment, procedures, management of bunker supply chain, quality and quantity of bunker fuel," notes a Maritime Port Authority (MPA) spokesperson.

"As the regulator and promoter of the bunkering industry, the MPA actively works in close partnership with the industry and partners to enhance Singapore's bunkering standards and services so that they remain relevant to the industry practice, and to safeguard the integrity of the bunker supply chain in Singapore."

The initiatives undertaken include:

  • Accredition Scheme for Bunker Suppliers: Developed by MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association in 2003, the scheme serves to recognise good bunker suppliers, and to safeguard the integrity of the bunkering services in Singapore.
  • Singapore Standard SS600:2014 Code of Practice for Bunkering (SS600): The predecessor of the SS600 was the CP 60 (Code of Practice for Bunkering by bunker tankers) that was introduced in 1993. In 2008, Spring Singapore and MPA launched SS600 to further enhance consistency in practices in the delivery of bunkers for ships calling at Singapore's port.

In October 2014, Spring Singapore launched the latest editions of the Singapore Standards SS600:2014 Code of Practice for Bunkering. The revised SS600 includes better safeguards to provide greater transparency in the bunkering transaction, thereby strengthening customers' confidence in Singapore's bunkering industry.

  • Singapore Standard SS524 Specification for Quality Management for Bunker Supply Chain (QMBS): The SS524 complements SS600 by focusing on the management of the entire bunker supply chain, with clearly specified procedural requirements from product procurement to bunker delivery. This provides a system to monitor and check on marine fuel quality at every step of the bunker supply chain. The latest edition was also launched in October 2014.
  • Mandatory use of mass flow meters (MFM) for bunkering: In 2014, MPA announced that Singapore was the first in the world to mandate the use of mass flow meters for bunkering. The use of MFM system for bunkering in the Port of Singapore will not only enhance transparency in the bunkering process, but also improve operational efficiency and increase the productivity of the entire industry. Points out Ms Choy: "This impacts several industry players in the bunkering industry, including bunker suppliers, bunker craft operators, surveyors, shipping agents and ship owners, many of which are SMEs."

MPA reported bunker sales volume of 42 million tonnes in 2013, making Singapore the world's biggest and busiest bunkering port with more than 139,000 vessels arriving that year.

"The improved standards help to provide greater transparency and assurance in the bunkering transaction, thereby strengthening customers' confidence in Singapore's bunkering industry. Beyond national adoption, the revised Singapore Standard on the Code of Practice for Bunkering (SS 600:2014) is expected to be used in the subsequent review of the ISO standard on petroleum products - procedures for transfer of bunkers to vessels (ISO 13739:2010)," adds Ms Choy.

She concludes: "Quality and standards is a critical enabler to economic growth and competitiveness. Through implementing standards, businesses can produce safer and higher quality goods and services at greater efficiency and lower costs. Across companies, quality and standards can also build more effective supply chains. On a global scale, meeting the technical specifications of relevant standards will ensure that businesses meet international customers' and export requirements and support entry into wider markets."