A new breed of ship chandler

Mike Sim, former executive chairman of SINWA explains how the roles and responsibilities of the average ship chandler in Singapore have changed over the last 30 years, and what it takes for companies to stay ahead of the pack
A new breed of ship chandler

Today’s ship chandler is a far, far different animal from those days in the mid 80s when I was first initiated into this industry, which is, rightly or wrongly, considered a rough and tough trade not unlike stevedoring and other cargo handling activities in the port areas.

In Singapore, today’s successful ship chandler is a completely new breed, altogether. He is, above all, tech savvy, perfectly at home with English, and speaks many other languages besides his mother tongue. He will be operating out of a modern, well-equipped premises, complete with separate freezer, chiller bonded and other storage areas, all in a compact, clean and functional facility of at least 4000 sqm, to cater to the many and varied requirements of the ship owner for logistics support and consolidation activities.

The company must be, at the very least, ISO 9001 certified, and should be looking at ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001, to comply with the latest environmental and operational safety standards. But with some 160 marine and offshore companies operating in this fiercely competitive arena, among whom are major players in this industry, what does it take for any one company to stay ahead of the pack, to differentiate itself and the scope of its services to ship owners, to offer more and different value-added services, to be better and more efficient, and yet remain competitive.

In other words, how do we go evolving and re-engineering a ship supply company to become the ship owner’s strategic partner?

In the context of the ship supply business, I shall define the meaning of ‘strategic partnership’ as an arrangement between two companies to work closely together to achieve some predetermined common objectives.

Apart from a complete alignment of common business interests and sharing of basic corporate culture and governance between the strategic partners, the ship chandler needs to have in place the following pre-requisites in order to be able to provide the high level of services and obligations required of a strategic partner:

  • Hardware 
  • Warehousing space: adequate, clean and safe warehousing space, complete with cold stores (if applicable)
  • Cold Chain Supply Management, from warehouse to vessel
  • Supply Network
  • Minimum ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 Certification 
  • Minimum five years solid track record.
  • Software
  • Experienced and Reliable Management Team 
  • Full integration with ship owner on: order management /procurement, e-POD (Electronic Proof of Delivery), logistics, e-invoicing 

Indeed, my very first challenge at SINWA in 1989 was space, or rather, the lack of it.

At that time, we operated from two shop-houses, with a total area of less than 400 sqm. The business was growing at a rather rapid rate, and it quickly dawned on me that unless we acquire much larger premises, future growth will be nigh impossible.

A decision was taken to purchase an office/warehouse in Jurong in 1991, and one year later we moved into our new 4,000 sqm premises, only to outgrow it within the first five years after moving in. Fortunately, the three properties next door became available, and we secured and moved into these in 2003. We are currently occupying some 15,000 sqm land area, complete with four separate warehouses with a combined total of 5,000 sqm storage space, and an open yard of approx. 4,000 sqm for loading activities.  

A new breed of ship chandler

by Mike Sim

Former executive chairman, SINWA

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