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Interview: Malaysia bunker supplier PSP Marine shares commercial expansion plans

‘IMO 2020 has produced several business opportunities which we are keen to explore as part of efforts to support shipping’s decarbonisation,’ Managing Director tells Manifold Times.

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PSP Grace MT

Malaysian bunker supplier PSP Marine (M) Sdn Bhd, established at Port Klang since 2012, is planning to expand its marine fuels business within the coming years, learned Manifold Times.

The company, which currently supplies marine gas oil (MGO), its low sulphur variant (LS MGO), and lubricant oil to vessels calling Peninsula Malaysia ports (including Sabah and Sarawak), is actively looking at market opportunities, says its Managing Director.

“We have stood the test of time and proven ourselves in this industry since our inception,” Soon Thian Fong told the bunkering publication.

“In order for our group to grow, become more resilient, and to tackle more complex and intricate challengers, we are expanding our bunkering business to other ports in Malaysia.

“We have successfully expanded to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Pasir Gudang Port, Melaka Sungai Udang Port, and Kuantan Port.

“Moreover, we aim to diversify into international petroleum cargo trading. Our target markets are Asian countries with growth and scarce energy supplies such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia.”

PSP bunkering collage

Bunker deliveries from PSP Marine are currently supported by three Malaysia-flagged bunker tankers namely PSP Grace (755 dwt, IMO 9056466), PSP Glory (737 dwt, IMO 8403038), and PSP Golden (1,198 dwt, IMO 9079652).

Moving forward, Mr Soon highlights the company to be looking at barge acquisition opportunities and a product portfolio expansion to offer Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

“The next two years will be interesting times for our company as we look to execute the expansion plans. IMO 2020 has produced several business opportunities which we are keen to explore as part of efforts to support shipping’s decarbonisation,” shared Mr Soon who noted, “opening of an office in Singapore is also within our sights.”

PSP Group supply locations

Contact details for enquiries are as follows:

Mr. Soon Thian Fong (AZ Soon)
Managing Director
+60 12 699 4488
[email protected]

Jane Ong
Sales Manager
+60 14 609 4488
[email protected]

Marine fuel enquiries
Email: [email protected]

Bunkering locations (West Malaysia)

LANGKAWI, PENANG, LUMUT, PORT KLANG, PORT DICKSON, KUALA LINGGI, MELAKA, MUAR, TG PELEPAS, TG BIN, JOHOR BHARU, PASIR GUDANG, PENGERANG, MMHE, TG LANGSAT, KEMAMAN, KUANTAN,

Bunkering locations (East Malaysia)

MIRI, BINTULU, SANDAKAN, SEPANGAR, KOTA KINABALU, TAWAU, LAHAD DATU, KUCHING

 

Photo credit: PSP Marine
Published: 24 June 2024

 

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Legal

Interview with a Helmsman: Issues regarding bunker trader employee movement

Matthew Teo, Director, Head of Employment at Helmsman LLC, answers questions on privileged knowledge, non-compete clauses, non-solicitation, payment during garden leave, and more.

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T01 0839 MT

Bunker trading firms are part of the marine fuels supply chain. When a bunker trader starts representing their company, they usually gain access to privileged information and industry contacts as part of their line of work; this is especially so for senior staff.

Marine fuels publication Manifold Times is privileged to have Matthew Teo, Director, Head of Employment at multi-disciplinary law firm Helmsman LLC, answer questions relating to staff movement.

Employment law is one of Matthew’s areas of specialisation. He often advises on restrictive covenants, contentious terminations of employment and non-contentious aspects such as drafting employment contracts and disciplinary policies. Matthew also acts regularly in employment disputes in Singapore.

MT: How should employment contracts within bunkering firms be structured where privileged knowledge is kept within company walls even when a trader leaves?

Employers generally utilise a mix of contractual obligations placed on employees in order to protect confidential trade information. There are normally confidentiality clauses and restrictive covenants (e.g. non-competition and non-solicitation clauses). However, these are not a panacea. In reality, it is difficult to police and prove breaches of confidentiality clauses. Similarly, restrictive covenants are, by default, unenforceable unless they meet certain criteria.

For more effective protection, employers should consider segregation of confidential information within the company and ensure that only people with a “need to know” are granted access to such information. Employers can also implement data loss policies and measures to monitor and track unauthorised download of confidential information. For example, if a trader resigns, the employer should immediately cease the trader’s access to the company’s confidential information.

MT: Regarding non-compete clauses, what are employer’s and employee’s rights on enforceability of ex-traders joining competitors?

The default position is that as a matter of public policy, non-competition clauses are unenforceable unless they protect a legitimate proprietary interest of the employer and are reasonable.

In recent cases in 2024, the Singapore courts have taken a very strict approach towards analysing non-competition clauses and held that confidentiality clauses which are premised on the protection of confidential information or trade connections are unenforceable where the employment contracts also contain confidentiality and non-solicitation obligations. There has been some academic discussion as to whether this approach is correct but this remains the current status of the law until the Court of Appeal of Singapore decides otherwise.

This is not to say that non-competition clauses will always be deemed unenforceable. Much will depend on the extent of the particular circumstances of each case and the ambit of the clause.

MT: On the topic of non-solicitation, can a former employer stop ex-traders from trading with previous customers even when bunker trading is such a niche market?

Non-solicitation clauses generally restrict the solicitation of an ex-employer’s customers. In other words, it requires a positive act of solicitation. On that basis, if the non-solicitation clause is reasonable in terms of period of restraint, scope of restraint and geographical area of restraint, it is possible for such a clause to be upheld as enforceable.

On the other hand, clauses which purport to prevent a former employee from trading with a previous customer without any solicitation may not be enforceable.

MT: What is the difference between notice period and garden leave?

A notice period is the period of time between the date on which an employer or employee notifies the other party that it intends to terminate or cease employment. This is a statutory requirement and most employment contracts will stipulate the specific notice period (failing which the Employment Act provides for the minimum period which will apply). For example, if an employment contract has a notice period of 1 month, then if the employee resigns today, the employee will have to serve the employer for another month (i.e. the notice period) unless the employee pays the employer 1 month’s salary in lieu of notice.

Garden leave is different concept. It is a period of time during the notice period in which the employee may be asked to stay away from the workplace and not conduct any work. The purpose of this is to cease the employee’s access to other employees and trade connections, as well as confidential information, so that the employer can then take steps to build relationships with those trade connections or prevent employees from being influenced to leave the company. In order to place an employee on garden leave, the employer must have included a right to do so in the terms of employment.

MT: It is common for big bunker trading firms to impose non-competition clauses for up to a year which prevents traders from being bunker traders during the period. Who should be paying the trader in this period and what can be considered fair for an ex-trader to ‘comply’ when considering a 100%/50%/0% non-competition payment scheme?

There are various jurisdictions in the world which have specific legislation governing non-competition clauses and in some cases, the laws of these jurisdictions may require the employer to make payment of a percentage of the employee’s last drawn salary during the period of post-termination restraint. Singapore, however, does not have any legislation governing this issue. Nevertheless, some employers in Singapore have drawn inspiration from these jurisdictions and introduced the concept of payment of “salary” during the post-termination period of restraint in Singapore to compensate ex-employees for not competing.

In my view, if an employer wishes to restrain an employee from working in the industry and utilising his skill sets post-termination, and if the period of restraint is very long (e.g. a year), then the employer should consider compensating the employee. Otherwise, the employee may have no alternative but to find work in the industry and “compete” with the employer in order to earn a livelihood.

The quantum of payment during such period of post-termination restraint is also a difficult issue. Whilst an employer may think it is fair if it pays the employee 100% of the employee’s last drawn salary during the period of post-termination restraint, the employee’s perspective may be different because the employee will be out of the industry for a long period and there may be a negative impact of the employee’s future career development that is greater than the compensation received. In other words, there is no law or fixed rule as to what percentage of salary payment would satisfy an employee, but I would think that a former employee would find it more palatable to accept such a clause and abide by it if there is a bigger financial incentive.

MT: Can an ex-trader compensate the former employer if he/sure wishes to seek relief from the non-competition period? How can it be done?

There is no specific legislation or law in Singapore that governs this issue. As such, this will have to be a negotiation between the former employee and former employer. In reality, a former employee is likely to obtain legal advice on the enforceability of the non-competition clause. If such legal advice is favourable to the employee, the employee may decide to proceed as if there was no such clause and test the former employer’s appetite in pursuing legal action.

Note: Matthew can be contacted at [email protected] for further enquiries.

 

Photo credit: Helmsman LLC
Published: 24 July 2024

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Bunker Fuel

Cargo ship “Tony Stark” detained in Spain for bunker fuel spill

Authorities have not allowed the Antigua & Barbuda-flagged ship to leave the port on Africa’s north coast until the owners pay bail of EUR 120,000.

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Marine Traffic / Raul Buque

Spain detained a cargo ship for causing a spill during a bunkering operation near the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, according to Reuters on Tuesday (23 July). 

Authorities have not allowed the Antigua & Barbuda-flagged Tony Stark ship to leave the port on Africa's north coast until the owners pay bail of EUR 120,000 (USD 130,129), Reuters reported, citing comments from Spain’s Merchant Fleet. 

Trails of fuel oil were found in front of Benitez beach, the breakwaters of the port and San Amaro beach in Ceuta, in the Alboran sea.

The Merchant Fleet estimated the size of the fuel spill was one metric tonne. It opened a disciplinary procedure that will determine the final fine.

 

Photo credit: Marine Traffic / Raul Buque
Published: 24 July 2024

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Wind-assisted

NYK installs wind-assisted ship propulsion system on bulker “NBA Magritte”

NYK Bulkship (Atlantic) installed two wind-assisted ship-propulsion units on Cargill-chartered bulk carrier on 8 July at the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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NYK installs wind-assisted ship propulsion system on bulker “NBA Magritte”

NYK Line on Tuesday (23 July) said NYK Bulkship (Atlantic) N.V. (NBAtlantic) has installed two wind-assisted ship-propulsion units on the bulk carrier NBA Magritte on 8 July at the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The bulk carrier is engaged in a long-term charter contract with Cargill (USA). 

“This is the first time a unit of this type has been installed on an NYK Group vessel,” NYK said on its website. 

Sitting on a 20-foot-long (approximately 6-metre) flat rack container with no walls, VentoFoil has a 16-metre vertical wing that acts as suction sail which expects about 5 times as much force compared to no-suction versions.

Features of VentoFoil

・VentoFoil creates propulsion with the pressure difference on both sides of the wing and is expected to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during vessel navigation.

・It takes in wind through its suction port and obtains greater propulsion by amplifying the pressure difference.

・The system can be easily activated and deactivated through a touch panel installed on the bridge, enabling operation without increasing the crew’s workload.

・It is smaller than similar wind equipment, making it easy to install and relocate.

・It can be folded in about 5 to 6 minutes, keeping it out of the way of cargo handling. (See video below.)

NBAtlantic will collect data on the propulsion generated by this equipment, as well as meteorological and ocean conditions during navigation, and measure the unit’s effectiveness in collaboration with Cargill International Inc. and NYK R&D subsidiary MTI Co., Ltd.

This initiative is part of NYK’s long-term target of net-zero emissions of GHGs by 2050 for the NYK Group's oceangoing businesses. The NYK Group will utilise the knowledge gained in this research and development to promote initiatives related to various energy-saving technologies, including the use of wind power.

 

Photo credit: NYK Line
Published: 24 July 2024

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