This post is also available in: 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified))

Beginner’s Guide on Starting a Maritime Business in Singapore

Despite being one of Singapore’s flagship industries, the maritime sector is still not as up-to-date as it should be when it comes to adopting the latest business technologies. Some maritime businesses in Singapore for instance, are still relying upon old arcane methods such as depending upon pen and paper to manage the planning of the business. However, despite the lack of technology adoption, the maritime sector of Singapore is still what you might say “a pot of gold” for start-up companies because of the vast potential that it holds. The opportunities for starting a maritime business in Singapore are ready and waiting for innovative new entrepreneurs to make an impact and bring with them revolutionary new solutions which can not only transform the industry, but give it the push it needs to launch itself into the 21st century.

Singapore alone is responsible for shipping to an impressive 600 ports in over 120 countries, which is why it is one of the best international maritime hubs. Hosting up to 5,000 shipping companies and more, investors who are keen to start a maritime business in Singapore have made the right decision by choosing this country as the place to launch their dream.

This guide will enlighten you about what you need to know regarding this industry.


Why Start a Maritime Business in Singapore?

Businesses are keen to establish a base and headquarters in Singapore for their Asian Operations. With excellent location and connectivity, attractive tax regimes, double taxation treaties in place with more than 70 countries worldwide, excellent immigration policies, and a skilled and multilingual workforce are among some of the driving factors that has consistently put Singapore at the top of the list when it comes to the best places in the world to start a business.

Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority recognizes the importance and the need to enhance the shipping industry in the country, which is why it has introduced several schemes readily available to assist investors who which to venture into this segment. These schemes include research and development, manpower development and even financial assistance, especially in helping SMEs capitalize on the assistance available to start their own shipping business in Singapore.

Among some of the incentives and benefits that investors can opt for when it comes to starting a maritime business in Singapore include the following:

  • Approved Shipping Logistics (ASL) Scheme – This provides investors with a 10% or higher tax rate concession to shippers on incremental income from delivering logistic or freight services.
  • Approved International Shipping Enterprise (AIS) Scheme – This is a 10-year tax exemption on qualifying shipping income.
  • Maritime Seed Fund (MSF) – Start-ups who are interested in innovative products and services receive financial assistance from the MSF.
  • Maritime Finance Incentive (MFI) Scheme – This is a tax concession for up to 10 years to shippers who derive qualifying leasing revenue by financing sea containers or maritime vessels.
  • Maritime Cluster Fund – Maritime industry support for manpower development, training infrastructure and capabilities through course fee subsidies, scholarships and attachment programs.

The government is keen on helping investors benefit as much as possible to encourage more growth and start-up in the maritime sector to improve this industry even more to reach its fullest potential.


The Types of Permits and Licenses You Will Need

To start a maritime business in Singapore, you are going to require certain permits and licenses before you can commence business operations. Among the documentation you will need include the following:

  • Harbour Craft Licence – This is needed to operate ships within Singapore’s port. If you intend to commercially operate your vessel in the Port of Singapore, this license is mandatory.
  • Port Clearance Certificate – This is needed to operate ships beyond Singapore’s port. The certificate can be obtained from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
  • Launch a New Vessel Permit – This is needed to launch in the port a new vessel longer than 15 meters.
  • Ship Station Licence – This is needed to operate radio-communication equipment aboard your Singapore registered vessel.
  • Ship Registration Certificate – This is needed to transport passengers or cargo.
  • Port Limit Manning Licence – This is needed for crew members to work on-board your vessels.
  • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate – This is needed to certify your ship’s sanitary status to transport cargo.
  • Permits are needed to discharge, load and/or transit dangerous goods and dock vessels carrying this kind of cargo.
  • Any other required permits and licences for related activities.


Getting Started Incorporating Your Business

Once you have decided that the maritime business in the industry you want to be involved in, you would need to get to work incorporating your company so you can legally operate it in Singapore. Company incorporations are a statutory requirement, and no business will be deemed legitimate without it. You may do this either by logging onto the online portal run by the Singapore government known as, or you may engage the services of a professional firm like 3E Accounting who come with years of experience to handle the process for you on your behalf.

You would need to begin by first registering your company name with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) Singapore, and once your name has been approved, you will then begin the process by submitting the following documents for your incorporation application:

  • The name of your company
  • A description of your business activities
  • The details of the directors and shareholders of the company
  • The intended registered address (no P.O. Boxes are allowed)
  • The details of your Company Secretary
  • The Memorandum and Articles of Association for your company
  • Choose the intended business structure of your company

Please note it is important to choose a name for your business that does not contain restricted words, or be a name which is similar to another existing company in Singapore. It must also not be a name that is vulgar or obscene, nor should it infringe with any trademarks. This will help ensure your incorporation process run much smoother and faster to avoid any unnecessary delays.

For more information on starting a maritime business in Singapore and incorporating your company, contact 3E Accounting today.