Starting A Shipping Company in Singapore

Singapore is home to more than 5,000 maritime establishments, holding headquarters of 140 of the world’s top shipping groups. With the added advantage of having several pro-business government policies, setting up a maritime business in Singapore is quick and easy.

This section will take you through the essentials to setting up a shipping company in Singapore and the benefits that the country has to offer to such businesses.

Setting up a business involves three major steps as given below-

  • The first step to setting up any business is incorporation. All companies in Singapore are bound by the Companies Act and required to registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). For further details, check out our guide on Company Registration.
  • The second step is setting up an office premise to establish your shipping company. Entrepreneurs and foreign companies who have made the decision to start or expand their business in Singapore can choose from a wide range of office space options available in the city. For further details, check out our guide on Office Spaces in Singapore.
  • The third step is hiring employees. When hiring employees to work onboard shipping vessels, a valid Port Limit Manning Licence must be obtained, which will be discussed further below. For  details on  hiring office employees, check out our guides on Singapore Work Visas and Hiring Employees.

Shipping companies are required to obtain the following licenses and permits to carry out required business operations-

  • Harbour Craft Licence– All vessels to be used as a harbour craft within the port are required to have a harbour craft licence as per the Maritime and Port Authority (Harbour Craft) Regulations of Singapore. The categories of licences issued are:
Licence Category Purpose
SB Vessel used for the carriage in bulk of petroleum, liquefied gases, liquid chemicals or vegetable/animal oils.
SC Vessel used for the carriage of dry or packaged cargoes.
SP Vessel used for the carriage of passengers.
ST Vessel used for towing, pushing or pulling other vessels.
SR Vessel used for any other purpose.


The following documents are required when filing the application via Marinet:

  • Identification belonging to craft owner of licensee
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of origin of vessel
  • Insurance policy
  • Craft’s minimum manning
  • Mooring letter or approval letter from the owner of the premises
  • Letter of approval for use of pier/landing places where applicable issued by the owner/manager of the facilities
  • Craft must be in port when application for new harbour craft licence is made
  • Any other documents or requirements as may be required by the Port Master

For further details, click here.

  • Port Limit Manning Licence– All certificated crew working on board a harbour craft are required to possess a valid Port Limit Manning Licence. Application for a manning licence must be made within one year from passing thelicence examination. Thereafter, applicant must retake the examination. Self-employed applicants must ensure that they have contributed to their medisave accounts as required by CPF board.

There are different types of Manning Licences for different kinds of crew members:

  • Port Limit Steersman
  • Port Limit Helmsman
  • Port Limit Special Grade (Deck) Officer
  • Port Limit 2nd Class Engine Driver
  • Port Limit 3rd Class Engine Driver
  • Port Limit Special Grade (Engine Driver)

For further details, click here.

  • Port Clearance Certificate– A Port Clearance certificate will be issued after completing necessary statutory requirements and port dues payable by the vessel to MPA have been settled. This certificate is needed to legally leave the port. Once such clearance has been obtained, the owner of the vessel must leave the port within 48 hours or such shorter period as may be specified by the Port Master.
  • Ship Registration Certificate-All vessels are to be registered with the Singapore Registry of Ships. Vessels can be registered under a foreign flag or a Singapore flag. The following are the pre-requisites to getting your ship registered:
    • The owner of the vessel must either be citizens/ permanent residents (PRs) of Singapore; and companies incorporated in Singapore (may be foreign owned or locally owned).
      • A foreign owned company is a company incorporated in Singapore in which more than 50% of its equity is owned by non-citizens of Singapore. In such cases registration requires the company to have a minimum paid-up capital of S$50,000; and must be of atleast 1,600 GT and self-propelled. Exemptions may be allowed in certain circumstances. For more details, click here.
      • A local owned company is a company incorporated in Singapore in which more than 50% of its equity is owned by citizens of Singapore, or by another local owned company. In such cases, registration require the company to have a paid-up capital of a minimum sum of S$50,000.
      • For tug and barge local companies and their holding companies, the paid-up capital will be pegged to 10% of the value of the first tug or barge registered or S$50,000 whichever is the lesser, subject to a minimum of S$10,000.
    • Once the above-mentioned pre-requisites are met, then the owner can write to the registrar seeking approval for a vessel name and proceed to apply for an official number and a Call Sign/Signal Letter.
  • Launch a New Vessel Permit– Regulation 52 of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (Port) Regulations requires vessels more than 15 metres long require written permission from the Port Master before they can be launched in port. Two copies of the completed, signed and stamped Permission to Launch a Newly Constructed Vessel Into the Waters of the Port form must be submitted to MPA’s One-Stop Document Centre (OSDC) within 3 working days prior to launching the vessel. For more details, click here.
  • Ship Station Licence– The Ship Station Licence is issued for the operation of the radio-communication equipment installed on-board of any ships registered in Singapore. Applicants can apply online for the Ship Station Licence via Infocomm Media Development Authority along with copies of the following documents:
    • Certificate of Registry or Harbour/Pleasure Craft Licence; and
    • Letter from SingTel on the assignment of maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number.
  • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate-The Port & Airport Health Unit assesses ship sanitation standards and issues Ship Sanitation Certificates (SSCs) that include Ship Sanitation Control Exemption Certificate (SSCEC) and Ship Sanitation Control Certificate (SSCC), in accordance with International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005. For more details, click here.
  • Maritime Sector Incentive– The Maritime Sector Incentive (MSI) helps shipping enterprises to grow their businesses in Singapore. It comprises of 3 awards namely,
    • MSI-Approved International Shipping Enterprise (MSI-AIS) Award- An MSI-AIS company will enjoy tax exemption on qualifying shipping income for either:
      • a 10-year renewable period; or
      • a 5-year non-renewable period, with the option of graduating to the 10-year renewable award at the end of the 5-year period, if qualifying conditions are met.
  • MSI- Maritime Leasing (MSI-ML) Award- Benefits of this award include,
    • Ship or container leasing companies, business trusts or partnerships will enjoy tax concessions for up to 5 years on their qualifying leasing income under the MSI-ML award.
    • An approved manager of the asset-owning entity will be awarded a concessionary tax rate of 10% on its qualifying management income.
    • Operating and qualifying finance leases are both covered under the MSI-ML award to allow asset-owning flexibility in leasing and chartering options.
  • MSI- Shipping-related Support Services (MSI-SSS) Award- An approved MSI-SSS company will enjoy a concessionary tax rate of 10% on the incremental income derived from the provision of qualifying approved shipping-related support services for a 5-year renewable period.
  • Block Transfer Scheme (BTS)- The BTS gives an 80% discount over the initial registration fee (IRF) to shipowners who register their ships fulfilling the BTS criteria. Under the BTS, the vessel would be registered at the rate of $0.50 per NT subject to a minimum of $1,250 for 2,500 NT and maximum of $20,000 for 40,000 NT. For more details, click here.
  • Withholding Tax (WHT) Exemption– To further promote the growth of the maritime sector, qualifying shipping enterprises will enjoy WHT exemption on interest and related payments made in respect of arrangements obtained to finance the purchase or construction of vessels, or the purchase of containers and intermodal equipment. For further details, click here.
  • Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF)- Introduced by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF) facilitates the growth of Singapore’s maritime cluster by supporting the industry’s manpower and business development efforts as well as its drive for productivity improvements. It consists of 3 key components:
    • MCF- Manpower Development
    • MCF- Business Development
    • MCF- Productivity.

For more details, click here.

Whether you are a start-up looking to establish your first office, or a multinational corporation seeking to expand your presence in Singapore or the Asia Pacific region, our team of professional staff are sure to deliver service excellence that meet your expectations.

To know more about the services we provide click Here or feel free to Contact Us.

All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented in this document is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. Professional advisory should be sought before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.