“Singapore is still able to differentiate itself from the rest as Jurong Island is very well integrated, offering several synergies whilst also minimizing potential risks.”
Can you give us a brief overview on your recent developments in Singapore?
Since 2016, Bertschi Singapore has doubled its storage capacity with a second warehouse, which has been in operation since January 2018. The entire infrastructure has been built to accommodate dangerous goods storage. We also doubled our drum filling capacity, quadrupled our steam heating capacity and we have been working to extend our license range to include a wider range of dangerous goods. Previously we were working with only class 3, 4.1, 6.1, 8 and 9. We have included 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 (gases), the full range of class four (4.1, 4.2, 4.3), which are flammable solids reactive with water or air, as well as 5.1 and 5.2 (oxidizers and explosive precursor products). Moreover, since 2016, we have tripled our manpower to 120 employees and will look to further expand to between 150 and 170 employees in 2018. We have further diversified our client base and we are now serving 30 companies in Singapore.
Becoming a leader in the regional ISO bulk liquid tank market was very much a priority two years ago. How have you consolidated your regional presence in this respect?
Since Bertschi arrived in Singapore, S$90 million have been invested in our facilities and equipment, which ties in to our desire of becoming a leading ISO tank operator in the region. The ISO tank business has been growing aggressively and in 2017 we increased our fleet to 14,000 tanks, an increase of 3,000 units compared to 2016. Moreover, we have also built our own ISO tank cleaning station. Globally and in Asia in particular, the industry has seen a reduced demand in ISO tanks over the past few years. We increased our investment and took an opportunity with a cheaper steel price. As Bertschi is a family owned business, we can think more long term, without pressure, and take calculated risks. One of our strengths is that we conduct all our work out of one location in Jurong Island, which reduces transportation costs for our clients. This fits in with the government’s goal for Singapore to move all the dangerous chemicals onto Jurong Island and away from residential areas.
What are the current prospects for Singapore’s chemicals sector?
The Singapore chemical sector has been relatively slow as there has been limited new projects over the past two years. From a logistics standpoint, however, we have been able to increase our market share as we have diversified our client base and we have been commercially quite aggressive. To counter the general slowdown in production, the EDB has focused on developing the specialty chemicals market with smart solutions to integrate logistics, the facilities and the chemical producers to make Singapore a smart destination for investment. It is no secret that the chemicals sector is rapidly developing in China and Vietnam, due to the low cost of production, and so Singapore is focusing on specialty chemicals. Singapore is still able to differentiate itself from the rest as Jurong Island is very well integrated, offering several synergies whilst also minimizing potential risks.
Furthermore, as most companies are producing for the Chinese market, if China speeds up again, this will have a direct positive impact on Jurong Island. As the whole of the South-East Asia region is picking up, we are confident for Jurong. Similarly, to further European integration the 1980s and 1990s, I believe a similar thing will happen with the ASEAN, which will rebalance the dependence on China.
What are the main challenges facing Bertschi on Jurong Island?
Our primary concern is related to manpower and increasing its quality. Logistics companies are forced to work with labor contractors to fill the available vacancies, which is not a model we want to have. We hope the government will take smart actions and makes the necessary changes to the existing foreign quota system to address the extreme shortage of manpower as it is slowing down our growth and further development on Jurong Island.
What is your vision for Bertschi Singapore for the coming year?
Our vision is to continue growing and strengthening ourselves on Jurong Island throughout 2018. With the second phase expansion complete, there are already plans for the third and fourth phase expansions. We will diversify our services by having an ISO tank cleaning station and we need to further develop our steam heating facilities. Looking further ahead, we are excited for the development of the new port, which will further underline Singapore’s connectivity to the world and its strategic regional dominance in the field of chemicals.