Opportunity knocks

With some sectors looking to have bottomed out many in Singapore are buying up cheap assets.

Speak it quietly but among Singapore’s battered shipowning community there is a feeling that the worst is over and now is the time to gear up and make the most of any opportunities that arise. Indeed, Singapore-based dry bulk players have been among the most aggressive owners snapping up bargain tonnage in recent months.

Not every sector is out of the woods however, as Esben Poulsson, president of the Singapore Shipping Association, elaborates in conversation with Maritime CEO.

“I believe for the offshore segment, any light at the end of the tunnel remains very faint, even if there is some evidence of a slight increase in exploration activity in the pipeline, judging by a notable increase in enquiries,” Poulsson says, adding: “The segment remains plagued by over capacity and for now at least, a fairly stable oil price.”

On the other hand, Poulsson, who is also chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, sees dry bulk and container segments improving both in terms of rate levels and sentiment. Tankers, meanwhile, remain “volatile”, he says, still affected by overall excess in capacity.

Next generation

Singapore is aware of all the digital transformation chatter sweeping the shipping industry and is adamant that its citizens be ahead of the curve in this respect.

Tan Beng Tee, a senior official at the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and one of the best known women in shipping in the Lion Republic, warned recently the industry’s workforce needs to up its game when it comes to IT literacy.

Speaking at a briefing session ahead of the Sea Asia 2017 conference and exhibition, Tan said: “The advent of digitalisation will help improve processes in the industry but it will also disrupt the way you do business. With this in mind, there is a need for us to be prepared and start thinking about the new business models that will arise as a result of digitalisation in the industry.”

Tan continued: “Another area we need to start focusing on is the skills of our workforce. Shipping is a traditional and documents intensive industry. This will no longer be the case in the future with blockchain coming into the market. New skills will be required and we will need to start equipping our workforce with cross-disciplinary skills such as IT literacy and data analytics.”

Reacting to news carried on our news portal Splash that a majority of the industry is still not investing enough to harness technology, Andrew Tan, the MPA’s chief executive exhorted that there was a need to raise greater awareness of the importance of digital to shipping. “It will take time but the conversation has to start now given disruptions underway,” Tan noted.

This article first appeared as the lead introduction to Maritime CEO magazine’s Singapore special report. The full magazine can be accessed by clicking here.

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