Train wrecks, shipping and transparency

Train wrecks, shipping and transparency

“A train wreck in slow motion.” That’s how Venkatraman Sheshashayee, the offshore veteran and CEO of Micyln Express Offshore, described the collapse of oilfield services firm Swiber Holdings last year during a live Q&A on Splash Chat.

Other Singapore offshore firms are clearly derailing in front of our eyes at the moment – as evidenced by the list of the most read stories on Splash this week – and yet the silence from those driving these troubled wrecks-in-the-making begs once again for more stringent transparency rules to be applied on listed entities, especially in Singapore, where the local exchange came in for considerable criticism for its handling of Swiber’s downfall last year. Moreover, when the cards collapse there’s going to be a growing angry clamour directed towards local banks who bankrolled the excess seen across Singapore’s offshore scene.

Still, bigger picture it’s arguable that shipping is being dragged into its most transparent period, thanks to technology, a point neatly made by German lawyer Dr Stephan Rindfleisch at yesterday’s Marine Money gathering in Hamburg.

Developments we’ve reported on this year such as ship e-auctions and tie-ups with Alibaba all point to the fact that transparency is finally coming to the industry, whether it likes it or not.

As a journalist, it should make my life easier, though perhaps not as fun – there is a certain kick my colleagues and I get from pulling and unravelling the thread of deliberately complex shipping structures to highlight those companies who are the next ‘train wrecks’.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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