"For packaged goods, it makes sense to regionalize supply chains, but this is not true for chemicals. Chemical plants are fixed around feedstock and/or market requirements and adding bulk liquid storage in more countries is not necessarily effective."
Could you introduce Stolt-Nielsen and its presence in APAC & MEA?
BB: The Stolt-Nielsen office in Singapore represents the regional HQ for APAC, the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. In this region, we employ about 600 people. We have four main business units: Stolt Tankers; Stolt Tank Containers (STC); Stolthaven Terminals and Stolt Sea Farm, the latter being the only entity without activity in the APAC & MEA. We also have an interest in LNG investments through Avenir LNG (Stolt-Nielsen Gas), which recently chartered its first LNG ship to Petronas in Malaysia.
Stolt has a regional fleet of 11 ships covering APAC, three ships in Northern Asia handling trans-shipments, and nine JV ships with a Chinese company doing shipments within China. Within STC, we manage 22 depots (globally) of which 11 are here in the APAC region that help us manage the quality and integrity of our assets. Lastly, we have terminals in South Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
Stolthaven turns 10 years since being built in Singapore. Could you briefly tell us about its activity?
ML: Stolthaven terminals is a global network of 15 terminals providing 5 million m3 of storage capacity for bulk liquids. We officially opened our Singapore facility in November 2011 and since then we have continuously evolved according to customers’ needs. We benefit from very advantageous synergies with Stolt Tankers and STC, which differentiates us from the competition. Stolthaven Singapore serves manufacturers on Jurong Island via pipeline connections, and as a redistribution hub for distributors and traders who have customers in the wider Asia region. We have the flexibility to store and handle products like LPG, chemicals and clean petroleum products.
How do you expect Singapore’s role as a trading and logistics hub to evolve in the future?
BB: Fundamentally, Singapore continues to have a logistics hub advantage. It is also clear though that there have not been many new investments in the country and that it’s hard to build a new chemical facility in Singapore compared to other locations. Nevertheless, the facilities already in operation are very effective thanks to the high level of integration and efficient logistics infrastructure. Other locations may offer a lower-cost environment for operations, but Singapore offers unrivalled ease of operations and of doing business from a tax, regulations, banking and legal perspective.
To what extent do you believe things like remote work or regionalizing supply chains will be lasting beyond the pandemic?
BB: As with many things, when a situation returns to normality, people look at change in a more realistic way. Working from home has become so obvious that it feels as if it will last forever, but when this is no longer a requirement, I expect we will have a more balanced view: we will retain the things that are really clever about working from home, and dispose of others which maybe did not really work well. And, if a job can be done entirely remotely, then where should this remote location be?
The same thinking applies to the supply chain: for packaged goods, it makes sense to regionalize supply chains, but this is not true for chemicals. Chemical plants are fixed around feedstock and/or market requirements and adding bulk liquid storage in more countries is not necessarily effective. But switching from shipping tankers to tank containers to manage working capital more effectively and faster may emerge as a more common solution for developing locations.
How has the pandemic impacted Stolthaven?
ML: The chemicals markets were in disarray during the pandemic, but our terminals are designed to switch easily between chemicals and petroleum products, where demand for storage was higher. Demand in chemicals is bouncing back and should hopefully return to pre-Covid levels. Growth is likely to come from APAC. Sustainability, but also either trade protectionism or liberalization in some countries will be shaping current value chains. I expect to see some changes in the products we handle, including bio-based feedstocks.
Could you share your final message with our audience?
ML: Stolthaven takes a very customer-centric approach and our end goal is to be one of the most respected terminals through our know-how, experience, and professionalism. In an ever-changing world, we are taking a proactive approach to sustainability and digitalization.