How to Setup a Maritime & Shipping Company in Singapore?

8 min read|Last Updated: December 6, 2023|

If you’re thinking of setting up a company in Singapore, in the maritime industry, you’re on the right track. The maritime industry in Singapore is Asia’s gateway to international and regional shores with its strategic location, powered by its best-in-class port facilities and shipyards.

As a premier International Maritime Centre (IMC), it sets the stage for ship hubs, essential ancillary services in shipping, commerce, and logistics to flourish. The Singapore government has put a strong emphasis on the maritime industry, with attractive tax incentives and grants available for businesses. Maritime Port Authority (MPA) is the governing body that oversees all maritime-related activities.

How to Start a Maritime Company in Singapore

There are 4 steps to start your maritime company in Singapore:

  • Incorporate your company

    It is very easy to incorporate a company in Singapore and can be done within the day if all the necessary documents are in place. This is a statutory requirement.

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  • Look for suitable premises

    The next step is to look for rental options in Singapore. There are plenty of options here, so it is important to find one that is cost-efficient and suits your business needs.Various rental options are available in Singapore, allowing you to cater to your specific needs.

  • Hire employees

    Employees are the cornerstone of your business operations – they are the ones who will be working onboard your vessel or office to ensure things are running well. You will need to apply for a valid Port Limit Manning License for those who are working onboard the vessel. If you are looking to hire foreign staff in Singapore, you will have to also apply for a work permit, such as the Employment Pass.

  • Apply for licenses and permits

    Before you can officially start operating your company, there are certain business licenses and permits to apply. The following is a non-exhaustive list of licenses and permits:

    • Harbour Craft Licence: To operate vessels within Singapore’s port
    • Port Clearance Certificate: To operate vessels beyond Singapore’s port
    • Ship Registration Certificate: To transport passengers or goods
    • Port Limit Manning Licence: For crew members to work on-board your ships and vessels
    • Launch a New Vessel Permit: To launch a new vessel more than 15 meters long in the port
    • Ship Station Licence: To operate radio-communication equipment on your Singapore-registered ship
    • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate: To certify your vessel’s sanitary condition to transport goods
    • Permit to discharge/load/transit dangerous goods and dock vessels carrying such goods
    • Other Licences and Permits for related activities

Licenses & Permits for Maritime & Shipping Companies in Singapore

The licenses and permits required to operate your maritime and shipping companies are listed below.

  • Habour Craft License

    Issued by the MPA, this license is required if you intend to operate vessels for commercial purposes within Singapore’s port. There are several categories of the Habour Craft Licenses, such as tankers, ferries, barges, etc.

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  • Port Clearance Certificate

    If you intend for your vessel to depart from port limits, a Port Clearance Certificate will be needed from the MPA. You will also need to apply for this certification 24 hours upon arrival of your vessel in Singapore.

  • Port Limit Manning License

    Every crew member onboard your vessel must hold a valid Port Limited Manning License. There are several different categories of Manning Licenses for the different types of crew members. This license is valid for 5 years.

  • Ship Registration Certificate

    If your business involves the use of ships, it is mandatory for you to register them with the Singapore Registry of Ships. There are a few pre-requisites to satisfy before registering these ships. This will be discussed in detail in the next section.

  • Launch a New Vessel Permit

    For businesses who intend to launch a new vessel that is more than 15m in length, a permit will be required.

  • Dangerous Goods Permit

    Vessels arriving in Singapore transporting dangerous goods, petroleum, or explosives need to apply for a permission granted by the Port Master. This also applies if you intend to discharge these goods in the port.

  • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate

    While this is not mandatory, it is recommended to apply for the Ship Sanitation Control Certificate from the National Environment Agency to ensure that your craft is in a safe and sanitary condition for transporting goods, giving employees and partners confidence in your company.

  • Ship Station License

    If you intend to operate any radio-communication equipment onboard your Singapore-registered ship, this license is required and can be obtained from the InfoComm Media Development Authority of Singapore.

Singapore Shipping Regulations

Most countries structure their shipping regulations to ensure illicit trade and misconduct do not take place. Singapore’s shipping laws cover the areas of carriage of goods by sea, admiralty law, and merchant shipping legislation. Common law principles and the following statues are the main regulations governing Singapore’s shipping industry:

  • The carriage of Goods by Sea Act

  • The Merchant Shipping Act

  • The High Court (admiralty Jurisdiction) Act

  • The Bills of Lading Act

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Registration of Ships in Singapore

For registration of ships in Singapore, there are a few pre-requisites:

For The Ship Owner

Before you start with your documentation, you should be aware that only the following can be registered as owners of Singapore vessels:

  • Citizens of Singapore or permanent residents of Singapore
  • Foreign or locally owned companies incorporated in Singapore

    • A foreign owned company is defined as one that is operated in Singapore and has above 50% of its equity owned by Singapore citizens
    • A locally owned company is defined as a company incorporated in Singapore and has up to 50% of its equity owned by another locally owned company or Singapore citizens

If the vessel is owned by a foreign-owned company, it may be registered in Singapore under the following cases:

  • The company must have a paid-up capital of at least $50,000
  • The vessel must be self-propelled and a minimum of 1600 GT
  • Notwithstanding the minimum paid-up capital requirements, the Registrar may in his discretion, waive them provided that the company and/or its related corporation(s) have registered, applied to register, or have informed the Registrar that they will apply to register.
  • An exemption from the tonnage requirements might also be provided at the registrar’s discretion on a case specific basis, in the case that the vessel is operated or based in Singapore. However, owners must apply for exemption with the registrar.
  • If the parent company is based in Singapore, is locally owned, and satisfies the minimum, paid-up capital requirement, the vessel may be registered in Singapore.
  • For tug and barge owning local companies, the paid-up capital will be pegged to 10% of the total value of the first tug or barge, or $50,000, which is the lesser, subject to a minimum of $10,000.

For the Vessel

Ships that are less than 17 years old are typically considered for registration.

Tax Incentives for Maritime Companies in Singapore

While there are plenty for tax incentives for companies in Singapore, there are industry-specific incentives for maritime companies under programmes like Maritime Sector Incentive (MSI).

  • MSI Approved International Shipping Enterprise Award
    This incentive aims to encourage international ship owners and operators to start their shipping operations in Singapore.

    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
  • MSI Maritime Leasing Award
    This incentive is to encourage businesses to use Singapore as their capital and funding base to finance their vessels and sea containers.


    • Tax concession for up to 5 years on their qualifying leasing income for ship/ container leasing companies, business trusts or partnerships
    • Concessionary tax rate of 10% on its qualifying income for an approved manager of the asset-owning company
    • Full coverage for operating and qualifying finance leases
  • MSI Shipping-related Support Services Award
    This incentive aims to promote the growth of ancillary shipping services providers and encourage shipping conglomerates to set up their corporate services function in Singapore.

    Concessionary tax rate of 10% on the incremental income derived from the provision of the following approved shipping-related support services for a 5-year renewable period:

    • Ship broking
    • Forward freight agreement trading
    • Ship management
    • Ship agency
    • Freight forward and logistics services
    • Corporate services (for business of shipping-related activities)
  • Withholding Tax (WHT) Exemption

    This incentive promotes the growth of the maritime sector. Qualified shipping companies will enjoy WHT exemption on interest and related payments made in respect to the arrangements obtained to finance the purchase or construction of vessels, or the purchase of containers and intermodal equipment.

You can also find out more taxation exemptions for Singapore companies here.

Let’s kickstart your maritime & shipping company in Singapore

There are certainly many benefits when it comes to setting up a maritime company in Singapore. On top of these incentives, there are also industry-specific grants available to tap on and set the stage for your business success.

We are also available to tap on and set the stage for your business success.


Come to our office or get in touch virtually for a consultation on your company and other corporate services.


What are the other tax incentives available to businesses in Singapore?2021-09-06T17:38:46+08:00

Some of the tax incentives include:

  1. Tax exemptions for new startups
  2. Double Tax Deduction for International Expansion
  3. Wage Credit Scheme

You can find more about tax reduction here.

How do I know if I am eligible for the tax incentives?2022-06-16T12:13:05+08:00

You may check your eligibility here.

What are the requirements to set up a company in Singapore as a foreigner?2022-07-19T12:35:43+08:00

The basic requirements are as follows:

  • At least one local resident director who is a Singapore citizen, a Singapore permanent resident, or an EntrePass/Employment Pass/ Dependent’s Pass’s holder with LOC.
  • At least one Shareholder
  • S$1 paid-up capital
  • A physical local address
  • A company secretary

You will also need a visa to run your business in Singapore. You can find out more about incorporating a company as a foreigner here.

How busy is the Singapore port?2021-09-06T17:23:47+08:00

Singapore port is the second busiest in the world, after Shanghai.

What is GT?2020-06-25T11:43:06+08:00

GT is an acronym for the term “gross tonnage”. Gross tonnage measures a ship’s total internal volume. It is not the same as gross register tonnage.

Where is the port of Singapore located?2021-09-06T17:27:57+08:00

The port of Singapore is located at Pasir Panjang, southwest of Singapore.

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