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Interview

Lisa Demant, Managing Director, Svitzer, Singapore

10.01.2014 / Energyboardroom

Lise Demant, Managing Director of Svitzer Asia, discusses the company’s pivot towards Asia’s thriving offshore market, with particular emphasis on how Svitzer aims to capitalize on the region’s growing hunger for LNG. 

You arrived at Svitzer, Singapore, in May 2013, as Managing Director of Svitzer Asia. What mission were you assigned when given this position?

Svitzer has assessed assiduously different regions of the world that may offer growth opportunities. Traditionally, we have had a strong footprint in Europe and Australia, and over the last few years, we have gradually expanded our portfolio in the terminal business, with a particular focus on servicing the LNG industry. Our market share in Asia has been relatively small as the region has, for many years, not been a target area. Nonetheless, with the regions thriving activity, our attention has turned to Asia—this is a market that we want to expand our presence in.

Today, we have a few minor operations in the region, in China and Sakhalin. We have a small fleet in Singapore, where we are servicing East Timor on some shorter-term contracts. Ultimately, we aim to augment our regional stretch by operating in Malaysia, Indonesia and increasingly in China.

How is Svitzer positioned to capitalize on the region’s forecasted E&P growth?

Svitzer has developed a strong track record and name for itself, and that has given a solid foundation to grow. Yet, we are not the only player in this regional energy game. There is growing competition and stringent national regulation processes that must be adhered to. These are challenges we need to overcome.

Considering Asia is a huge, rather fragmented region, with a lot of internal complex forces shaping the business environment, how have you been able to formulate a cohesive strategy?

One of Svitzer’s strengths is delivering and forging robust, local partnerships.

It is crucial that we find the right partners, which align with our core values and have compatible business features. Moreover, we look for partners that have local knowledge and a strong local network. In turn, we offer a ‘plug and play’ solution. For instance, we offer ships, we can build and operate them, and we are used to working with the major oil and gas companies. Ultimately, our business strategy has a long-term horizon and it is important to find partners that can help us achieve sustainable, profitable growth.

Given the rise of emerging, regional towage and salvage entities in APAC, how does Svitzer’s business model make you the partner of choice in Asia?

In the oil and gas industry there is a continuous push for higher safety standards. Svitzer pushes to be on the absolute forefront of this; for instance, we are in the process of rolling out a new harmonized management system based on the OVMSA standards. We are also the largest towage operator for LNG terminals. Additionally, we have established a strong track record in mature markets such as Europe and Australia. Offering that longevity, trust and successful blueprint is something clients actively look for. The Maersk and Svitzer names are powerful brands in the industry, and we are continuously working on ensuring that remains the case.

How is Svitzer expanding its LNG activity in Asia?

LNG is a core focus of Svitzer in Asia indeed it contributes to approximately 50 percent of our revenue in the region. One of our operations in China is an LNG project, as is our activity in Sakhalin. It is a market which is blossoming rapidly, with LNG Terminals sprouting up all over the region. Ultimately, the LNG market in Asia has a steep, upward growth trajectory, and Svitzer is actively trying to enlarge its already strong foothold in this market. Additionally, we have an offshore oil installation in East Timor and have a petrochemical operation in China.

Holistically, Svitzer’s Asia operations occupy a small slice of the company’s overall revenue pie. Yet, we are positioning ourselves shrewdly and are ambitious to grow with the region’s ascendance. We are positive that we will play a pivotal, future role as one of the company’s chief growth engines.

What is the strategic value for Svitzer to hold an office in Singapore?

Despite considerable overhead costs Singapore is the number one knowledge and networking hub in the region.

Moreover, the fact primary brokers and suppliers are established in Singapore, only strengthens the case for having a tangible presence here. Going forward, assuming our presence in the region propagates, it may make sense to build local offices throughout the region; however, at the moment we are strategically right in the heart of the region.

Worldwide, the O&G industry is struggling to fill the ‘talent gap’ that continues to challenge companies today. How is the company trying to improve its employee retention rates?

There is certainly a fight in Singapore for local offshore and engineering talent, because there is a clear dearth of suitable talent. Nonetheless, after considerable cooperation between the industry and relevant authorities, steps in the right directions are taking place, with directives becoming increasingly focused on the offshore industry. Indeed, there is growing recognition that this segment of the sector requires a nuanced education and skill set.

It is amazing how many questionnaires and input sheets you get from authorities such as Singapore’s Business Federation and MPA. The authorities want to know exactly what is going on in the industry, understanding its strengths and weaknesses. It is one of the great assets of Singapore: their attitude to facilitate business efficiency, and solve industry challenges through open dialogue.

In three years time, what would you have liked Svitzer to have achieved in Asia?

In three years, I would like Svitzer Asia to have secured a strong footprint in Malaysia, Indonesia and China—these are all core markets for us. Furthermore, we would like to have entered frontier markets such as Myanmar, and have cemented a stake in these growth pockets. We aim to ride the growth wave of the region, and capture a greater market share as the region demands greater port efficiency and safety procedures.
I report into the Dubai office, which oversees Africa, Middle East and Asia. Ultimately, in three years’ time, I would like us to have grown healthily so that we can be our own entity, reporting straight into Copenhagen.

To read more interviews and articles on Singapore, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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