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MPA to set safety standards for vessels in inland waterways

Vessels plying inland waterways will have to meet new safety standards after changes to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) Act were passed in Parliament yesterday.

The changes vest the MPA with the power to set standards for vessels operating in reservoirs and other inland waterways.

It will work with national water agency PUB, which licenses such vessels, to develop and implement these safety standards.

The move will enhance overall safety in reservoirs and inland waterways for all, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min.

As the authority on safety standards for marine vessels, the MPA has the expertise and experience to assume the responsibility of setting benchmarks for vessels in inland waterways, he added.

The PUB will continue to issue permits to these vessels "for the purpose of water quality control, protection of reservoir infrastructure, controlling the types of activities in these water bodies, and preventing social disamenities".

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had spoken with environment group Waterways Watch Society, had sought greater clarity on the possible regulations.

"In view of the cost concerns that operators may face in possible regulations of engines, I hope that extensive consultations will be made with the Waterways Watch Society and other non-governmental organisations and companies, and that any regulations made will be done gradually," he said.

Mr Ng gave the example of how some vessel operators hope they can continue operating boats with four-stroke engines, instead of having to switch to battery or solar-powered vessels, which would rack up additional costs.

Dr Lam assured him that the PUB will continue to allow vessels with four-stroke engines to operate in inland water bodies.

Other changes to the MPA Act include removing the cap on the number of MPA board members to give the Transport Minister "greater flexibility" to appoint more members as he deems fit to bring in relevant experience and expertise.