Singapore, 2 February 2012 – Several bright spots in the maritime industry are showing prospects and opportunities even as the global shipping industry faces a slow sail this year. Offshore, shipbuilding, green shipping and a growing Asia – these sectors will be the focus of the Asia Pacific Maritime (APM) 2012, which takes place in Singapore from 14 to 16 March this year.
Regarded as Asia’s premier maritime event, APM is set to see dynamic discussions between world maritime leaders on the outlook of the shipping industry and the opportunities to help industry players cope with the slowing economy.
Industry heavyweights, Mr Nobor Ueda, Chairman and President of ClassNK and Vice-Chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies Ltd. (IACS) Council, and Mr Simon Bennett, External Relations Director of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) will co-host the keynote session at APM 2012, themed Asian Shipping: Coping with Turbulent Waters.
"The strength of the shipping industry is inexplicably tied to volatile economic trends and trade patterns. However, despite the uncertainty in the industry, the outlook for Asia remains bright," said Mr Ueda. "Singapore, in particular, with its tripartite model of forging partnerships is a shining example of how to overcome the downsides of the sluggish global economy."
Mr Bennett has a more cautious view. “It is currently necessary for any prudent ship operator to anticipate the unexpected. While we had assumed that the worst was over following the 2008 banking crisis, the health of the global economy is still very fragile, and most shipping markets expect a very rough ride in 2012. The only real bright light perhaps is Asia, which continues to sustain demand for many shipping trades, although with the current uncertainty in Europe, even this cannot be guaranteed.”
Maritime associations in Asia are optimistic on the region’s ability to ride out the storm and steer towards a positive forecast.
“The maritime industry in Indonesia is now more advanced and the focus has moved beyond domestic trade to international trade as well. Domestically, shipbuilding, offshore, tugs and barges, and vessels are performing well,” said Mrs Carmelita Hartoto, Chairman of Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA).
She added: “The commitment by Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam to implement the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 will grow ASEAN into a highly competitive and connected economic region. Production and distribution networks will be widened and deepened, in turn supporting the maritime industries among ASEAN member countries. ASEAN has also determined priorities that cover opportunities in cooperation in maritime connectivity and the development of port facilities among ASEAN member states.”
“Malaysia has a thriving offshore oil and gas sector and we will continue to consolidate our position as the deep-water hub in the South East Asia region and commanding lead in handling halal cargo. Intra-ASEAN and intra-Asian trade volumes are also expected to grow, and so will transhipment. These will provide some glimmer of hope to what will otherwise be a tough year ahead for ports,” said En. Nazery Khalid, Senior Fellow of Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA).
On the launch of the Malaysian Shipbuilding/Ship Repair Industry Strategic Plan 2020 in December 2011, he added that it will give a much needed boost to the local shipbuilding and ship repairing industry. “The plan charts a clear course to develop and promote Malaysia into a major player in the small- to medium-sized shipbuilding market, attracting investment, nurture expertise and create employment opportunities.”
Ms Marjan Lacet, General Manager of Holland Marine Equipment (Singapore Branch), is also confident that the maritime industry in Asia is going strong. “Geographically, Asia plays an important role in the future for many Dutch maritime companies. In February 2012, Holland Marine Equipment will open its Singapore branch office. This branch will actively help to build and establish a network between Dutch maritime companies with local companies in the Asia Pacific market.”
Ms Michelle Lim, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions, which organises APM, said: “To date, 90% of the exhibition space has been taken up and we are expecting over 13,000 visitors. Such a positive response echoes the experts’ view on the prospects in Asia and the growing interest from international players in the region.”
“With the growing influence of Asia in the shipping industry and the strategic location of the event in Singapore, we are seeing more exhibitors from the West looking to leverage on APM to seek opportunities and use it as a springboard to establish connections with Asian players,” Ms Lim added.
The budding outlook is further illustrated with the event welcoming two new official pavilions from Taiwan and Australia, making a total of 14 official pavilions. Norway, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and China will also be expanding their pavilions in terms of size and participation numbers, signalling more robust market activity at this year’s event.