Jeffrey Lai* says the time is right for Norwegian companies to pursue growth opportunities within the maritime and offshore developments
Norway and Singapore are leading maritime nations with a long history of collaboration in maritime development, research and education. The time is right for Norwegian companies to go abroad, despite the strong headwinds in the offshore industry. This is because there are exciting projects in prospect as Singapore scales up its maritime vision by developing the port of the future, making the transition to cleaner fuels and building infrastructure to strengthen its position as an important gateway to Asia.
There are close to 400 Norwegian companies in Singapore, most of them in the maritime and offshore industries. Singapore is also home to about 130 international shipping groups. It is important to be in touch with customers and continue to work closely with them to respond to the present challenging conditions.
Despite the global slowdown, Singapore is still an attractive and conducive base for companies wanting to deepen collaboration and be engaged in this region. There are good opportunities for Norwegian maritime companies that have the relevant technology and solutions to tap into the mega projects in Singapore.
For example, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has a clear mandate to develop a next-generation port that will be fully digitalised, automated and smart, with an advanced vessel traffic management system, that will be fully integrated with the new Tuas mega port.
Likewise, Singapore has taken many initiatives to build capabilities in liquefied natural gas (LNG) including demand for regasification, storage, transportation, bunkering and floatation facilities. This is to provide a world class bunkering hub to serve the future needs of a global LNG fleet coming to Singapore.
These are possibilities which offer opportunities to Norwegian suppliers – to leverage their expertise and experience and tap into the growth opportunities in this region. But Norwegian companies need to be mindful of the concerns of buyers about total project costs. Competition has tightened in a market with fewer projects due to cutbacks in capital expenditure. Norwegian companies need to find ways of combining innovative solutions with more customised purchasing options, to differentiate themselves and cater to the different needs of buyers.
One possibility is to look at bundling a competitive fixed-price agreement in return for a longer contractual term commitment from customers. It is also important to offer good service support and a comprehensive warranty, to set the business apart from competitors offering cheaper alternatives with less quality assurance.
Norwegian companies should look beyond developing individual capabilities. It might be smart for Norwegian companies to collaborate to create synergy and offer a stronger value proposition that might be more attractive for buyers than selling a single suite of solutions.
The Mintra story is a good example. I helped OCS HR to establish a presence in Singapore in 2014. In 2016 OCS HR was combined with Mintra Trainingportal to become the Mintra Group, which opened an office in Singapore later that year.
Merging a leading provider of training, learning and competence management services with the leading supplier of HR, crew management and payroll solutions means that Mintra can provide unparalleled services combined with in-depth expertise in oil and gas, maritime, construction and renewables. This gives it a stronger focus and a complete solution for shipowners, as well as a team to capture growth opportunities in the Far East.
In March 2017, Norwegian Energy Partners and Innovation Norway Singapore organised a Singapore roadshow that was well attended, with a big delegation of Norwegian companies to promote Norwegian solutions and enhance local market knowledge. There is a lot of interest in Norwegian capabilities and technology. But it is also about how business is conducted in Singapore. We will provide training covering interpersonal skills, an understanding of cultural norms and subjects such as sustainable development.
We will initiate more programmes in the coming months to help more Norwegian companies to assess the market, review their business models and link up Norwegian companies with potential clients, to expand their overseas footprint.
*Jeffrey Lai represents Innovation Norway, the Norwegian government agency that supports enterprise to do business abroad, and is Singapore country manager for Norwegian Energy Partners that was established in January 2017 with the merger of INTSOK and INTPOW