Burgeoning growth in specialist ship management services is leading Hong Kong-based Wallem Group to open its first ship management and broking operation in Singapore.
Captain Deepak Honawar, a director of Wallem Shipmanagement, said launching in Singapore would provide more space for the company to grow its Hong Kong ship management business.
"We've always said we'll have a presence in Singapore," Honawar said, but the company had previously deferred a decision because of cost.
He said it was finally decided that "we had to bite the bullet" and make "a long-awaited move into ship management in Singapore".
"Ships call more frequently at Singapore than Hong Kong" to refuel and change crews, he said.
As a result, it was likely some of the ships currently managed from Hong Kong, along with technical staff, will be transferred to the Singapore operation. "This will make room for expansion in Hong Kong," Honawar said.
Wallem has already started to receive applications from people hoping to work for the company in Singapore as word started to go around the shipping industry that Wallem is launching operations.
"There are a lot more ship management companies in Singapore than Hong Kong and I'm quite surprised by the number I haven't heard of before," Honawar said.
Wallem manages more than 400 ships globally including tankers, dry cargo bulk carriers, containerships and vehicle carriers on behalf of shipowners.
Honawar said the company saw a net increase in its managed fleet of about 40 ships last year.
Ship managers are typically responsible for the day-to-day management of ships, providing crew, organising dockings and repairs and supplying the vessel with food and supplies for which the management company receives a fee from the shipowner.
The move into Singapore comes six months after Wallem formed a ship management joint venture with mainland shipowner Nanjing Tanker in Singapore.
Honawar said the partnership, NW Shipmanagement, had 16 tankers in its fleet and the tie-up would give Wallem the opportunity to recruit more Chinese officers with tanker experience.
He said NW Shipmanagement was the latest of several joint ventures Wallem had with shipowners including Cosco in Qingdao and Fesco and ID Maritime in Hong Kong.
Honawar will become managing director of Wallem Singapore, moving to the city state next month ready for Wallem Shipmanagement (Singapore) and the sale and purchase ship broking business, Wallem Commercial Services, to launch in April.
Wallem Singapore will also oversee Wallem's ship agency business, which has been operating in Singapore for 50 years and handles mostly cruise ships.
"My immediate focus will be to set up Wallem Shipmanagement," Honawar said. "The first thing I've got to show the board is we've got enough business to sustain the operation."
Wallem is already looking at using Singapore to expand the ship management business into Malaysia and Indonesia.