by Curtis Hand, images from ST Engineering unless otherwise noted
While the coffee is brewing in a machine for someone’s cup somewhere, Maritime Security & Defence (MSD) magazine had a rare opportunity to catch up with and interview Mr Ng Sing Chan, President, Marine of ST Engineering. We wanted to have benefit of his unique perspectives after more than five decades of innovation, this interview focuses on ST Engineering’s unique prowess in the naval defence and maritime security arena worldwide.
It is said that Singapore is named after a ferocious almost super-natural lion, which embodies the spirit of this young nation and its rich maritime tradition. Mr Ng Sing Chan (photo right) brings some clarity to our understanding of how ST Engineering became and remains a global leader.
MSD: When was the marine business of ST Engineering established and for which
Ng Sing Chan (NG): ST Engineering’s marine business has come a long way since it was established more
than 50 years ago.
Today, ST Engineering has established itself as a total naval solutions provider. From
conceptual to basic, detailed and production design, we build, maintain, upgrade and
of late, even provide total comprehensive maintenance for some of the platforms. This
way, the customers are left to focus on the operations and the fulfilment of their
missions. We are also capable of delivering COCO solutions if so desired by our
customers. Some of these services are performed in our customers’ facilities in
On the commercial front, we are also a shipyard known for delivering highly customised
vessels, be it in the RoPax, ferry, offshore oil and gas or floating power segments. We
have repaired more than a hundred commercial ships in our four facilities in Singapore
and the United States. Providing quick turnaround in conversions, lengthening and
winterisation of vessels count as our specialty too.
MSD: In which market segments have you been most successful? Why – what are its keys to success?
NG: In the area of defence, we are strong in the maritime security area, having designed
and built three classes of Patrol Vessels, with one that is exported to the Royal Navy
of Oman, namely the 75m Al-Ofouq Class Patrol Vessel. The other two are the 55m
Fearless Class Patrol Vessels and the 80m Independence Class Littoral Mission
In the HADR segment, we have designed and built two classes of platforms, namely
the 140m Endurance Class LSTs for the Republic of Singapore Navy and a similar
140m LPD-791 named as HTMS AngThong for the Royal Thai Navy. These platforms
were delivered together with our series of Brave Class Ship-to-Shore Connectors.
In homeland security segment, we have designed and built the Heavy Fire Vessel, for
the Singapore Civil Defence Force and currently working on the design, build and
maintenance of a series of Fast Patrol Boats for the Singapore Police Coast Guard, to
strengthen its coast protection capabilities.
In the US, our yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is also known for similar capabilities
having designed and built the Ambassador IV-Class Fast Missile Craft for the Egyptian
Navy. It is one of the major shipyards to design and build the auxiliary and support
vessels for the U.S. Navy which include hydrographic and oceanographic survey
vessels and missile instrumentation vessels. Current programmes are five units of 67
Class Auxiliary Personnel Lighters and another hydrographic and oceanographic
survey vessel, also for the US Navy. The yard also has two Logistics Support Vessels
under design and construction, for a foreign navy.
A significant win for us is the award for the design and construction of the US Coast
Guard (USCG) Polar Security Cutter in 2019. The PSC contract is a multi-year programme and a USCG major system acquisition to acquire up to three multi-mission PSCs to
recapitalise the USCG fleet of heavy icebreakers.
Our key success factors lie in our determination to protect and grow our core products
and services, leveraging on proven track record in distinct segments which require high
customisation to meet the exacting requirements. We collaborate with strong partners
in the countries we play. We work with local and international agents to cast our nets
wide. We seek good and capable shipyards to work with and to deliver local content
while providing design, equipment and technical assistance packages. In addition, we
have also been investing in technology development so that we can remain agile and
responsive in adapting our vessels to meet the fast-changing needs of the modern
naval forces around the world, in terms of interoperability, autonomy and
Last but not least, we invest in our human capital, training and
equipping our workers, engineers and managers with the skill sets needed to meet the
needs in digitalisation, AI, simulation, data and video analytics, VR, cyber-security, just
to name a few.
MSD: What are some of the challenges facing navies and coast guards today that you are helping to address with its solutions?
NG: We see navies and coast guards facing pressures to pivot to acquiring unmanned
capabilities, lean manning, autonomy, as well as adoption of greener technologies for
their naval fleet.
One of our latest vessel designs, the Vanguard, epitomes what we envision are the
requirements of the future naval force. The design concept of Vanguard focuses on
“One Design”, which can be applied across multiple classes with modular capabilities.
Built with an efficient hull form and equipped with a hybrid propulsion system with high
levels of automation, the Vanguard vessels also support smart fleet management with
a lean manning. It is the answer to the growing demand for multi-mission naval vessels.
This concept also allows for commonalities (i.e. scalable hull form, machinery and
equipment, system and layout designs, standards for outfitting and installation) across
the different class of vessels such as frigates, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels and
also naval research and support vessels. Under its multi-role capability profile, the
Vanguard series offers a highly operable platform in high states for the stowage and
operation of unmanned vessels and vehicles for enhanced reach and visibility. This
flexibility and adaptability using a proven and scalable design can potentially reduce
non-recurring engineering costs, save time and resources by fast tracking project
execution and reducing acquisition and through-life cycle through commonality in
equipment and systems.
MSD: Where does ST Engineering’s Marine business see its most promising growth areas?
NG: Defence engineering is the core of our business. Having established a strong local
presence, venturing overseas is just as important. However, the global market is a
highly complex and competitive one. Hence, we need to identify and carve out a niche
area which capitalises on our strengths.
We hope to see more opportunities with the upward trend in the US Department of
Defence’s spending, as well as naval fleets in various regions expanding and
We also developing smarter and more sustainable solutions to address the needs of
modern naval forces around the world, as they look towards digital fleet, unmanned
capabilities and various digital technologies to be integrated in their platforms.
MSD: What are the future challenges that you are beginning to, or is already,
NG: The future of naval defence is moving towards smart and digital ships, just like the
maritime industry in general. Naval forces will be more modernised, platforms will be
moving towards unmanned capabilities, while adopting leaner manning capabilities.
The use of digital technologies such as digital twin, sensemaking, enhanced human
factors engineering, big data and AI will be the new normal and we are increasingly
integrated them into our yard operations and vessels.
At ST Engineering, we continue to push out proprietary sub-systems, such as Q-LARS
2.0, NERVA Ship Management & Sensemaking System (NERVA SMS2), on naval
platforms, to cater to the varied mission needs. Our patented Launch and Recovery
System (LARS 2.0) can handle a wide range of small crafts and USVs, enabling
autonomous launch and recovery for unmanned surface vessels, and the ease of
launch and recovery at high sea states, whereas our NERVA SMS2 incorporates data
and predictive analytics for condition-based monitoring and predictive diagnostics on
platform systems enabling better and quicker decision making in emergency situations
where every second counts. These innovative sub-systems is the way forward as we
move together leaner manning capabilities and eventually towards unmanned
We are also developing greener solutions that support the push for sustainability, an
increasingly important topic repeatedly raised and discussed. Innovations such as
electric/ hybrid propulsion, energy-efficient platform systems, eco-hull design for fuel
efficiencies and the use of recyclable materials for naval shipbuilding are part of our
plan in the move towards offering greener and more sustainable solutions. Several
autonomous platform systems, such as the autonomous LARS, and unmanned
solutions, such as an enhanced mothership concept and AI-based mission planning
capability, are under development and we are confident these technologies will be the
future of digital shipping in the naval sector.
Geographically, we continue to pursue opportunities in Singapore, Middle East as well
as in the US.
We have also established strong overseas partnerships and developed project teams
that are versatile with a global cultural intelligence to succeed internationally, as many
countries are looking into building up local defence capabilities as well as technology
and capability transfer.
MSD: How does ST Engineering’s Marine business see itself as an advantage provider over its competition? Why?
NG: With over five decades of shipbuilding experience, we are one of the few shipyards in
the world capable of supporting the entire life cycle of a ship. We are continually
innovating and developing new capabilities to strengthen our ship design, engineering,
upgrade and integrated logistics support for naval vessels.
Our advantage lies in our ability to deliver a quality service to our customers on time
and within budget. Our attentiveness and responsiveness to customers’ feedback and
requirements is part of our value proposition.