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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Singapore: An Emerging Arctic Actor
Singapore’s Interest in the Arctic
In this paper, we identify two areas that have, to varying degrees, been advanced by Singaporean
policymakers as having Arctic relevance:
Singapore’s importance as a maritime stakeholder.
Threats and opportunities for the Singaporean economy, particularly related to (a)
Singapore’s hub port status and (b) commercial potential for the offshore and marine
Singapore as a Maritime Stakeholder
Singapore has played an important role in the global governance regimes and institutions for ocean
management and transportation as an island state and a major shipping hub.
Singapore is a
longstanding member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and was re-elected to the
IMO Council for the 10th consecutive term in November 2011
(Singapore Ministry of Transport,
. Singapore has played a role at the IMO that is disproportionate to the size of the country
(IMO, 2004)
Singaporean officials have also articulated views on UNCLOS that indicate official thinking on
relevant issues. They have stated that freedom of navigation represents an issue of “vital interest”,
that the high seas are the common heritage of mankind and that there must be improved
cooperation between littoral and user states. For Singapore, “discussions on ocean governance must
be open, inclusive and involve all interested stakeholders”
(Hean, 2012)
We can therefore say that (1) Singapore has a keen interest in international ocean law and the
development of global shipping; (2) it has committed diplomatic resources to influence these; and
(3) it has a set of principles it applies to these issues. Seen from this perspective, it is not surprising
that Singapore is seeking to follow the development of Arctic shipping and resource exploration
more closely.
Some Arctic Council member states have acknowledged Singapore’s maritime heritage as a
legitimate factor in its application for Observer Status,
while Singapore’s Arctic Envoy also reasons
that IMO competence is an area of expertise Singapore can share with the Arctic Council.
Singapore’s Economic Stake in Arctic Developments
Aspects of Singapore’s interest in Arctic affairs are best understood by acknowledging Singapore’s
history as a developmental state ruled by a single party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), since 1959.