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Clarksons Platou expects S'pore to play increasingly global role

"It takes a while but the shipping fleets do rebalance in line with demand, allowing freight rates to recover to sustainable levels and eventually, justify the ordering of new ships," says Mr Lane.

HEADQUARTERED in London, Clarksons Platou set up a dedicated tanker research & analysis desk in Singapore in August 2015, in view of the Republic's growing importance as an international maritime centre.

Says Giles Lane, 52, managing director of Clarksons Platou Asia Pte Ltd: "Singapore continues to grow as a maritime centre and Clarksons Platou is a broadly based global shipping service provider. Research and analysis is at the core of all Clarksons Platou services and our tanker research and analysis business has been historically centred in London but we are continually looking at areas where we can add more value to our client base locally and recognised a need for us to have this representation within an Asian time zone,"

He sees Singapore gaining importance as an international maritime centre in the years to come.

"Leading British shipping economist Dr Martin Stopford once told me that the balance of global trade axis shifts about two degrees further east per year and, from around 2007, it was planted east of Suez. As Asian economies continue to grow over the coming years, so will the need for the ships that carry the raw materials and finished products to fuel it," says Mr Lane. Dr Stopford is currently president of research at Clarksons Platou, the world's largest shipbroker.

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Singapore is already the largest international shipping centre in the region and, with a growing cargo and vessel ownership based here, should play an increasingly important role on the global stage and logically expand in associated aspects of the shipping business, he adds.

Clarksons Platou's office in Singapore currently has 170 employees, having grown from 20 in 2000. Back then the company was primarily focused on large tanker chartering, with a small dry cargo chartering desk and a fledgling sales and purchase desk.

Since 2000, Clarksons Platou has developed specialised tanker, gas and container chartering desks and its offshore presence significantly expanded with the Platou merger last year. As with any startup ventures, there have been a few bumps along the way but all the desks have gradually expanded to meet the needs of the regional shipping community and the company expects them to continue to do so while it also looks at new opportunities.

Clarksons Platou is the lead provider of chartering, sale & purchase, newbuilding and demolition across all shipping and offshore sectors, servicing its international clients through a global network of 46 offices across six continents.

Its financial division is engaged in providing debt and equity capital solutions as well as risk management strategies to clients, while also offering debt restructuring, corporate finance and equity research across global maritime, oil services and natural resources sectors.

All of this is underpinned by Clarkson Research giving leading data and analysis to the shipping and offshore industries.

Asked for his views on the current downturn in the global shipping environment, Mr Lane says that shipping is a cyclical business largely driven by global growth that is then overlaid with a multitude of other factors affecting specific sectors.

"So, while there is undoubtedly a rebalancing of global growth, not all shipping sectors are at the same point in their respective cycles. Some are clearly going through a difficult time right now but others would need to look back as far as 2007-2008 to find a better market than they have just been through in the past 12 months.

"With the broad coverage and ambition of Clarksons Platou platform, downturns in certain segments can also be times of opportunity," says Mr Lane.

Peaks and troughs are a regular feature of the shipping markets and to be successful over the long term, any sector has to weather some pretty serious downturns, he says.

"It does take a while but the shipping fleets do rebalance in line with demand, allowing freight rates to recover to sustainable levels and eventually, justify the ordering of new ships. The crude oil price looked like hitting US$25 per barrel in January but is now recovering and we can already see this reflected in more activity in the offshore sector."

Founded in 1852, Clarksons has over the past 164 years grown into a truly international business with more than 1,300 employees worldwide . In 2011 the company celebrated 30 years of meeting client needs in Asia. In February 2015, Clarksons' acquisition of the RS Platou Group brought together two heritage businesses with a strong track record and positioned the new group as a clear market leader across the shipping and offshore industries. The same year saw Clarksons enter the FTSE 250 list of companies.