There’s no air of gloating when Maritime CEO calls in to interview the president of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) ahead of a busy week of shipping events in the republic including our own Maritime CEO Forum today and the Asia Pacific Maritime exhibition, which starts tomorrow. Yes, the Lion Republic might be by common consent – and multiple polls – the most vibrant maritime cluster in the world. However, for Esben Poulsson there’s no time to celebrate, it’s more important to bolster some weaker parts of Singapore’s maritime jigsaw.
The area the SSA president wants to boost the most is in finance. Going forward, Poulsson wants to make it as easy to raise cash in Singapore as it is in leading ship finance centres, Oslo and New York.
“On finance we are still not there,” Poulsson admits. “We all know perfectly well where the weak spots are.”
The city republic needs more capital markets activity and more analysts to cover shipping. The problem is that in recent years poor performing offshore stocks and shipping trusts have taken the shine off the sector.
“Money can be raised in Oslo and New York, we want to be able to raise commensurate levels considering we are regularly voted the number one shipping centre,” the SSA boss says.
To this end, SSA helped convene a capital markets forum last November where around 20 shipowners were able to have one-on-one meetings with a series of investors.
Despite the finance shortfall, there’s no denying Singapore remains the top maritime centre in the world. For Poulsson this is largely down to the joint vision and partnerships fostered between government bodies and companies based in the Southeast Asian nation.
“It’s no secret that why maritime Singapore works well is the level of coordination among the key stakeholders, both public and private,” Poulsson says. He relates how when he first moved to Singapore 14 years ago there were around 30 shipping lines based there. Today there are more than 140.
“Cluster building has been done via coordination among all the stakeholders,” he says.
Going forward, SSA, and other maritime bodies in Singapore, are looking at developing tech leadership in maritime.
“Digital is a constant theme in shipping right now,” says Poulsson. “This is an aspect you have to get stuck into or you will be left behind.”
In his opinion, Singapore ranks with Norway and Denmark when it comes to digital development in maritime.
The nation’s terminal operator, PSA, and its port authority both now have living labs. “We must coordinate well so we don’t duplicate efforts,” Poulsson says.
When it comes to the digital race sweeping through shipping, Poulsson is aware, like in so many other strands of maritime, there is no time for Singapore to rest on its laurels.
“Everywhere in the world there are beavers trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg of shipping,” the SSA boss points out.