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Halycon Recruitment: On Brexit, Singapore and the hunt for the right talent

If you look at a city’s shipping vibrancy via the amount of HR moves going on there is only one contender for top hub status: Singapore. That’s the view of Heidi Heseltine, managing director of Halcyon Recruitment. Houston has developed a great deal in the last few years too, she says, but nowhere can match the Lion Republic.

“Singapore continues to offer diverse maritime related employment opportunities in abundance, both for commercial roles and technical roles,” she says. “It is also seen to be one of the most attractive locations globally from a work/life balance perspective.”

Established in 2005 and with offices in London and Singapore, Halycon has been getting it’s fair share of inquiries about what will happen to the UK as a shipping centre in the wake of last month’s Brexit vote.

“There is definitely uncertainty at the moment and this will be the biggest challenge,” Heseltine concedes, before adding: “I do not believe that it is going to change significantly, whether looking at it from a maritime insurance, chartering, legal or finance perspective.”

She is adamant that in the long run London will continue to be a maritime hub due to location, expertise, history and professionalism.

A potential challenge that Brexit may cause, however, is filling positions in the UK with external talent.

“There are simply not enough qualified UK residents willing and able to fill all the highly skilled positions that the UK’s diverse maritime industry requires,” Heseltine points out, especially for sectors that require the skills of ex-seafarers. For example, shipmanagement offices in the UK are usually multinational offices and do rely on EU and non-EU citizens.

Prior to working at Halycon, Heseltine’s career included stints at Euronav, Gearbulk and Riverside Tanker Chartering before she joined another recruitment firm, Spinnaker Consulting for five years.

Heseltine’s background means she has seen her fair share of shipping cycles. What she notes from an HR point of view is that the downturn in shipping is not making it difficult to find new talent, it is actually the other way around, finding sufficient roles for talent is difficult.

The process for recruiting a new employee has become much longer due to the downturn in shipping as the requirements have become more specific and more stringent, she observes.

“The question is though, do companies have the selling points to attract people in?” she muses.

Big companies that have been around for years do not have much trouble in finding new talent as they are viewed as tried and tested, but the newcomers to the market, the start-ups, are finding it difficult in the current unstable market and they must have something to attract the potential candidate.


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