Tankers – Evan Lim, CEO – Singapore
The CEO of Ocean Tankers, part of Singapore‘s Hin Leong business family, describes the recent commercial movements of the company. He highlights the ambitious fleet expansion and modernization that remains an ongoing process for the business and sets the business apart from its competitors.
How did your prior experience enable you to promote Ocean Tankers’ interests and in the recent past, what have been the key milestone achievements under your management?
I was involved in commodities trading before I took up my position here at Ocean Tankers. I have been able to bring my understanding of trading and Ocean Tanker’s logistics capabilities together, creating synergies and improving the management of our shipping business. My commercial background has allowed me to look at freight in a novel way.
In terms of milestones, the major rejuvenation of our fleet that we have undertaken in the past years stands at the top of my list.
What is the strategy behind Ocean Tankers’ asset procurement policies?
Over the course of the fleet rejuvenation, we have focused our procurement policies on various technical aspects that are important to the client. As such, we have been in a better position to adapt our offers. Our vessels are more efficient in carrying cargoes as compared to same class vessels of standard specifications. Also Ocean Tankers vessels can steam at various speeds and undertake super slow steaming if necessary. It is important to note that every single ship ordered by Ocean Tankers is customized to meet industry needs.
At the end of 2011, our modern VLCCs, equipped with seamless stainless steel heating coil, were invited to participate in the Nova Pool, which facilitated our business shipping to new destinations and fine-tuned the way we manage our vessels. The company learned from this experience and utilized the lessons gained in this partnership to further streamline our business model.
You mention Ocean Tankers’ ships are designed with the client’s needs in mind – how do you think your business’ services compare to those of your competitors and what marks Ocean Tankers out?
Firstly, Ocean Tankers benefits from many years of experience in freight trading, thanks to our position within the Hin Leong family of companies. My personal experience as a trader also allows me a unique perspective to run the business. As a Group, we are not only owner of vessels but also charterer and operator. This unique position allows us to have a comprehensive understanding of customer’s needs. We aim to be a practical service provider for our clients and to offer a range of tailored solutions to meet their demands.
Our true competitive advantage, however, lies with the variety of vessels in our fleet, capable of carrying an extensive range of petroleum products, accommodating various capacities and operating in wide range of speed. Depending on the needs of end clients, our VLCCs can steam from very low speeds up to 16 knots. All our new buildings have a larger carrying capacity, as compared to those of standard specifications. For example our VLCCs can carry up to 2.14 million barrels, thus offering significant economies of scale. To quantify the differential between our ships and the average tanker of an equivalent class, our vessels are able to transport 10-20% more. As such, our clients receive more value for their money and can best optimize space for their transportation needs. I like to compare our vessels of varying sizes to Airbus 380s – the strategy behind their design is the same – to carry more for less.
Ocean Tankers started trading into the US following the inclusion of top of the range tankers into its fleet. Where are the principle destinations that your company carries cargo to; where are you seeing principle levels of growth?
Our fleet is truly worldwide in its reach with movements from the Middle East to Europe and the Americas, for example. We also see new opportunities to bring shale oil / condensates / refined products from the USA eastwards to Asia. Ocean Tankers will extend to even more geographic areas in the coming years. Furthermore, the fact that we are trading worldwide means that we are also able to go anywhere as a transport company, rendering us all the more attractive to potential clients.
What does Singapore mean to Ocean Tankers as a strategic trading hub?
Singapore is a gateway between the East and West, and Ocean Tankers has been strategically headquartered here since its inception. The port, transportation, and financial infrastructure of the city support both the trading and shipping industries, which gives companies in these industries a notable head start. Overall, from refining to trading, brokering to banking the city-state offers a complete and robust infrastructure service in its totality.
In addition, being based in Singapore means that we have better access to our partners. The infrastructure and business-friendly policies of the island-state have attracted many foreign companies to set up activities locally. For example, many freight, trading and other service companies have decided to base operations in Singapore as they can be sure to benefit from the commitment of the Singapore Government towards security and safety of the maritime transportation segment.
Here in Singapore, how much demand is there for your STS (Ship-to Ship) transfer services?
Ocean Tankers prides itself on offering additional services that are adapted to the needs of our clients. Our ship-to-ship transfer (STS) service is one example of the customization that we seek and is a response to the scarcity of land companies face in Singapore. Some early players in the refining business have access to suitable amounts of land. However, many other companies do not have access to the necessary storage space onshore and they need to look for alternative solutions- such as floating storage. Our STS service is one such solution and has been a catalyst for further development of maritime storage in Singapore.
In 2012, Moller Maersk, Mitsui, Samco Shipholding and Ocean Tankers pooled together a spot market fleet in order to beat tightening margins. What has been the principle path of development for the market since then?
The NOVA group allowed us to have a flow of steaming tankers and represented a creative way to reduce excess supply. This grouping was one reaction to the surplus capacity facing the industry in the past years.
Nowadays every shipowner is pragmatic about market situation. Hence they choose to prolong the voyage by slow-steaming and to reduce the supply.
Ocean Tankers clearly values its employees, and seeks to deliver comprehensive training programs to keep them operating as best as possible; how do you find access to skills here in Singapore, and what is your training mechanism principally aimed at delivering?
Numerous sectors of the Singapore economy are facing staff shortages. Similarly, Ocean Tankers faces difficulties in securing staff. As such, we focus on growing talents within the Group. We encourage our employees to participate in training programs that allow them to constantly upgrade the skills. With our focus on training and retaining staff, the business is able to boast that it has a capable, competent team in handling operations. Since its foundation, Ocean Tankers has had the pleasure of working with a diverse range of quality personnel.
As the leader of Ocean Tankers, what is your strategy for growth over the next five years?
Ocean Tankers has a long history of operating as a privately-owned entity that manages its own fleet. As such, we are pleased to show the international community how a home-grown and locally-operated company has built up its capacities and fleets, and how it continues to progress. It takes time for organic growth, and Ocean Tankers is positioning itself to move forward to meet changing client’s needs and develop new capabilities.
Currently, we are looking to expand both our customer base and our geographic reach, whilst also aiming to expand our capacities into new business areas. Singapore offers many opportunities in the transportation of LNG and LPG, as well as the FPSO business which are all areas that we are currently looking into as possible growth paths. Eco-friendliness is another growing point of emphasis for our operations.
Finally, we have received unwavering support from the large banking community here, even during times of financial uncertainty. We are indeed very proud of these relationships, which have been driven by our consistent success and ambition for further growth. The business intends to continue to build on these relationships with financiers to fuel and deliver further development of the business.