TRADING companies and freight forwarders are cashing in on cheap, second-hand vessels and low charter rates in Southeast Asia to launch new shipping services out of Singapore. According to Shipping Times, Singapore, the most popular route is Vietnam, which is undergoing a massive economic reform that has triggered heavy demand for both consumer goods and heavy equipment. A Singapore-based ship owner said that used vessels of up to 3,000 deadweight tonnes (dwt) were selling for between US$500,000 and $750,000, the same rate as 10 years ago. Several new liner services have taken off, but the operators are shy of publicity, preferring news of their services to be spread by word of mouth. ''The shipping community in Singapore is very close-knit. They will know these things, sometimes even before it actually happens,'' said a manager running one of the new services. But the chief executive of a listed shipping firm said it was more likely that the newcomers did not want it known that they were owned by trading companies or freight forwarders. ''Once your competition know that, they will not support you. There is no way you can convince them that documentation of their shipments will be kept confidential,'' he said. The shipping documents usually contain sensitive information like the parties involved in the shipment and the value of the cargo. The executive also said it was puzzling that the newcomers were offering a service between Singapore and Vietnam.