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Coming of age in Singapore

Coming of age in Singapore

When Thoresen Shipping Singapore was set up in 2005, it was an experiment to see what Singapore could offer. Its managing director Ian Claxton tells Crystal Chan how the gamble has borne fruit. ...More

20 March 2012

Fair Play Magazine

Crystal Chan

Maritime Singapore adds value

Maritime Singapore adds value

Low taxes, political stability and a good geographical location have cemented Singapore as a shipping hub. Maritime Singapore is widely expected to go from strength to strength over the next five years. Tasked with developing Singapore as an international maritime centre, the Maritime and Port Authority told Fairplay the city-state continues to attract a diverse range of players that enhances the breadth and depth of the shipping services.

MPA chief executive Lam Yi Young is upbeat. “We envisage the development of Maritime Singapore to be a continuing process and will work with our strategic partners and the maritime community to improve the business environment, attracting shipowners and operators to grow and entrench their operations.”

The strategy appears to be working. Fairplay has learnt that many maritime service providers are expanding their presence as Singapore grows as a trading and shipping hub, notwithstanding economic uncertainty.

Some 4,111 ships of 57.36M gt carried the Singapore flag at the end of 2011, compared with 3,978 ships of 48.78M gt a year earlier. Pro-business policies and a low-tax regime are encouraging more shipowners to relocate. This augurs well for Maritime Singapore, which comprises about 5,000 local and overseas companies that hire 170,000 people, contributing 7% to the city-state’s GDP.

Denis Petropoulos, executive MD of UK broker Braemar Seascope’s Singapore office, sees Maritime Singapore growing further. “In five years, Singapore will be even more active in shipping services. As shipping companies in the region mature, they will be more dependent on Singapore as a service centre for maritime businesses.”

GAC Singapore MD Ronald Lichtenecker recognises Singapore’s long-term strategic plan for maritime business. “In preparation [for the new liquefied natural gas terminal], we will start to train our boarding officers to handle LNG ships, and tap into the expertise of the global network to provide a package of services to owners and charterers of liquid bulk cargo vessels.”

Since it set up in Singapore seven years ago, Braemar Seascope’s client base, especially in the dry bulk segment, has grown with the prospering Chinese and Indian economies. “Singapore has done what it can to develop its shipping community and we want to add value to the maritime hub,” said Petropoulos.

“Now is the time when ‘added value’ matters. It’s a cliché, but it matters more than ever. Freight rates will be tough on shipowners because of the massive orderbook and deliveries; that makes the market challenging for everyone. Shipowners have to make their businesses more efficient, while service providers like us must be more effective and provide high quality service.”

Braemar Seascope’s growth mirrors that of its rivals, which are expanding their presence in Singapore through acquiring local brokers. Last month, US tanker broker McQuilling Partners marked its foray into dry cargo with the acquisition of Anglo AsianShipping to form McQuilling Anglo Asian (Dry) Brokerage.

Shaun Matheson, who heads the new venture, told Fairplay, “We felt the merger would enable both of us to diversify and benefit from synergy because McQuilling specialises in wet cargo while our expertise is in dry cargo. So with McQuilling, we can build up our client base and vice-versa. From what we gather, new clients are coming to us because of the widened services we can now offer.”

Other service providers expanding in Singapore include UK law firm Ince & Co, which formed Ince Law Alliance with local firm Incisive Law last year. Both firms jointly advise clients and represent them in Singapore's courts.

Ince commented it was “extremely useful to be able to offer our clients a one-stop shop for cases involving both English and Singapore law; it has meant that the combined offering is more efficient and cost effective for clients.

“We have received instructions on several occasions where our ability to provide such a service to clients has been key and was very much appreciated by clients.”

This month, FutureShip, German class society Germanischer Lloyd’s consultancy arm, launched in Singapore. Lukasz Luwanski, GL’s VP for South Asia and Oceania, said it was important to be in Singapore because the hub was so highly regarded. “Customers demand increased levels of consultancy and support to utilise their assets efficiently.”

As Maritime Singapore grows, established companies such as Keppel Shipyard seem to have changed gear. The city-state’s largest yard undertakes about 400 ship repair projects each year. “Customers are drawn to the yard’s strategic location, comprehensive facilities and efficient ship repair operations,” said MD Nelson Yeo.

Thai dry bulk carrier Thoresen Shipping Singapore was so convinced it based its chartering team in Singapore in late 2011. The Thoresen Thai Agencies subsidiary is re-flagging all its 15 owned vessels to Singapore. Ian Claxton, MD of the local office, told Fairplay the move was “testimony to Singapore’s strengths”.

“Singapore has all the ingredients to be a shipping hub – it is very pro-business and has a depth of talent, with English-speaking staff, making it the place to be,” he said. “The presence of service providers, like brokers, commodity traders and mining companies, that are represented here was a key factor in our move to Singapore.

Maersk Line (Asia Pacific) CEO Thomas Knudsen agreed. He revealed that Singapore was the only country outside Denmark where it has flagged a large number of vessels.

It is largely because of Singapore’s one-stop shop that Maersk is on course to have almost 100 ships of 5.4M gt under the Singapore flag by 2014, illustrating just how symbiotic Singapore’s shipowners and service providers have become.

“Singapore is an attractive springboard to reach out to emerging Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Vietnam which are experiencing interesting growth,” said Knudsen. “Being politically-sound and stable, with a transparent government and well-developed banking system also makes Singapore an attractive place to own and operate vessels.”

Singapore Maritime Foundation chairman Michael Chia observed that as shipping increasingly shifts to Asia, Maritime Singapore would emerge stronger from the downturn.

“No one can run away from the global recession. Singapore has to make itself attractive to shipping companies. Investors are well aware that the long-term prospect of the trade, especially in Asia, is bright,” said Chia.

“So when the global economy revives and shipping activity picks up, Asia will be the first place to feel the upturn.”

23 Feb 2012

Fair Play Magazine

Crystal Chan

Thoresen eyes secondhand and bulker purchases

The article is overall positive and talks about Thoresen's plans to purchase second hand vessels in the coming years. It quoted Ian Claxton on Thoresen's plans with the handysizes, handymaxes and supramaxes and his outlook on these vessels. ...More

3 Feb 2012

Seatrade Asia Week

Lee Hong Liang

Managing duo boast years of box and bulk experience

The article is overall positive and talks about the experience Ian Claxton and Mike Anderson bring to Thoresen and where their expertise lies in the shipping industry. The second part drives the key message of the opening of the Singapore office and its plans to play a more active role as a dry-bulk operator. It quoted Anderson saying Thoresen is now concentrating on the Inter - Atlantic business, which commands a 50% premium on Pacific trades and that the company wants to meet most of its cargo commitment using its own vessels.

1 Feb 2012

Tradewinds

Jonathan Boonzaier

Asian player on new course

A Bangkok outfit has consolidated its shipping activities in Singapore with a new team and business aims.

Thoresen Shipping, the new Singapore-based arm of Bangkok-headquartered Thoresen Thai Agencies (TTA) has officially opened offices in the Lion City. The event marks the beginning of a totally transformed Thoresen, complete with new managers, ships and operating philosophy.

At the helm is ma naging dire ctor Ian Cla xton, who joined the compa ny in July last year, assisted by commer cial director tvlike Anderson, who came on board last December.

1 Feb 2012

Tradewinds

Jonathan Boonzaier

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For more Information

Thoresen Co (Bangkok) Ltd
10th floor Orakarn Building
26/26-27 Soi Chidlom
Ploenchit Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand
General Line: +66 2250 0569