In an exclusive interview with Manifold Times, Robin Van Elderen, Regional Head Bunkers, Europe, Sing Fuels Pte. Ltd. on Wednesday (29 June) revealed more about the firm’s recent move in acquiring the assets of independent bunker-buying management service Prime’s Bunkersplus Services L.P based in Athens, Greece.
MT: How did this development come about? How long did negotiations take? During the Covid era what issues were there in communication and what were the solutions?
As a global energy trading firm, Sing Fuels aspires further global expansion, and we believe that for many markets the fastest way for us to grow is through acquisitions of businesses that share the same approach and values as we do and bring deep local insights and connections. The partnership is the first step in Sing Fuels’ plans to grow a global alliance of independent brokerage partners, with deep knowledge and specialism in their respective markets, working together to provide an alternative to larger global competitors.
An established and well-connected player in the Greek shipping market, Prime’s Bunkers, led by Founder Irene Notias, is a long-time associate of Sing Fuels. Prime’s Bunkers’ local expertise and connections will enable Sing Fuels to grow in depth and extend its reach to create stronger ties and relationships in local markets and consolidate its business across the different markets, while diversifying potential risks the company could be exposed to.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving market landscape, the long-standing relationship between our companies provided strong fundamentals to deepen our partnership and we found the process to be very smooth given our shared ethos and vision.
MT: What are the benefits for Sing Fuels, in terms of expansion strategy, services for clients, and business opportunities, of an expansion to Greece?
Greece is one of the world’s largest shipping markets and an important strategic location. The partnership with Prime’s Bunkers marks our entry into Greek market, which will be its sixth geographical location after Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We hope to use this partnership in Greece as a springboard to expand into the neighbouring and overseas markets which includes Europe and China, as well as expand our product portfolio.
Traditionally in the past we have expanded by opening offices in new markets and countries and hiring individual traders. The research and analytics we gathered during the pandemic has taught us that to grow in depth, extending our reach to create stronger ties and relationships in local markets, such as what we have done with our partnership with Prime’s Brokers.
Post-acquisition, the company will continue to offer a strong local alternative to the shipping customer base, leveraging Prime Bunkers’ independent broking bunker-buying management services.
MT: How does the acquisition of Prime’s Bunkers reflect these values of Sing Fuels?
Both companies have roots as brokerage firms, and Sing Fuels’ is a long-time associate of Prime’s Bunkers. While the Prime’s Bunkers team is relatively small, they have consistently been achieving steady growth and are well established as a key player in the region.
This agreement is built on the foundation of our shared and deep commitment to operational excellence, and we believe there are significant opportunities to capture more market share with a proactive approach to after service, and drive our growth through this global alliance.
MT: How does the acquisition commercially help Prime’s Bunkers? What do they get out of it?
Irene will lead the Greece office for Sing Fuels, becoming Country Manager. Irene is a prominent figure in both the Greek community and domestic shipping industry. With her knowledge and familiarity with the markets, and innovative and customer-centric outlook and approach, she will be instrumental in helping us to shape the trajectory and growth of the business in the region.
With the acquisition of Prime’s Bunkers brand, goodwill and assets, this partnership will allow us to augment our collective capabilities to deliver outstanding customer service to key stakeholders in the region. At the same time, Prime’s Bunkers will also be able to scale and grow the business through leveraging Sing Fuel’s vast network and resources.
Following the deal, Prime’s Bunkers will continue to operate under the name of Sing Fuels Pte. Ltd. (Hellas). Investment will be made to increase the company’s current headcount, adding more traders, and broadening its service offering in Greece.
MT: After the acquisition, what is the total headcount for Sing Fuels?
Our continued business expansion as part of this partnership – including the number of staff, penetration of segments and marine products – will be executed in a timely manner and supported by a business plan. Recruitment will start immediately with the aim to add more staff to the growing team.
MT: Moving forward, and on the back of IMO 2030/2050, what are the future developments in the pipeline for Sing Fuels?
We are continually exploring opportunities to expand to other markets and diversify our business as part of our development strategy. Not restricted by the competitive nature of the industry, Sing Fuels has steadily expanded its market presence into South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States, since the company’s inception in 2012.
Business diversification has allowed Sing Fuels to stay relevant in an industry with relatively uniform offerings. For instance, the company has also entered the lubricants market for automotive and industrial needs.
As in many other industries, digitalization and big data is becoming more important in the maritime industry as well. Sing Fuels has embarked on a cycle of transformation, a notable project was the implementation of an ERP system with API connectivity to the data and credit agencies which aids Sing Fuels to make informed decisions based on data. We will have a Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer join the business at the end of Q3, 2022 to drive our digital agenda.
At the same time, we are also embedding practical sustainability measures into key operational areas of our business. As a company, we are committed to investing to stay ahead on all new and alternative fuels to ensure that our products and services continue to meet our customers’ needs and are able to support them in realising their sustainability goals.
This is in line with the International Maritime Organisation’s decarbonisation ambitions, and we are actively exploring alternate platforms for championing investments in liquid ammonia, green hydrogen, low carbon vessels, and carbon capture technologies.
Photo credit: Sing Fuels Pte. Ltd.
Published: 30 June, 2022
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