Shinmin Daily Feature

Shinmin Daily interviews Eng Hup Shipping's Director of Business Development, Tommy Phun, on his entrepreneurial journey.

1st September 2021

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The following article is translated from Shinmin Daily’s mandarin interview:

Maritime is an important contributor of Singapore’s economy, accounting for 7% of Singapore’s GDP and employing more than 160,000 Singaporeans. Over the years, Singapore has been able to maintain its position as an international shipping center and a global hub port. In addition to its geographical location and government support policies, the local maritime ecosystem plays a pivotal role. In this ecosystem, shipping companies, industry partners and trade unions must work closely to improve service level and efficiency.

Eng Hup Shipping, a Singapore shipping company with a history of more than 60 years, can be said to be one of the important partners in the local maritime ecosystem. Over the past decades, the company has continuously improved its portfolio of products and services to provide integrated marine services, and has also gradually expanded its fleet to 70 vessels, including tugs, ferries and utility boats. Eng Hup Shipping also acquired a shipyard in 2012, which is now known as Bee Sin Shipyard.

The company upholds its core values of responsiveness, resourcefulness, reliability and respect, and strives to become the preferred comprehensive marine services provider in the region. Today, Eng Hup Shipping’s clientele base includes government agencies, international oil companies, dredging companies and more.

Today, I would like to share the entrepreneurial story of Tommy Phun, 32, Director (Business Development) of Eng Hup Shipping.

After graduating from the Finance Department of Singapore Management University in 2014, Tommy decided to join the family business. His interest in maritime was inspired since young when he listened to his grandfather’s and father’s stories of working and living out at sea.

However, after joining the company, Tommy’s journey was not plain-sailing. In 2015, the local oil and gas industry was hit by the collapse of international oil prices and fell into recession. Many shipping companies that provide services to the industry were affected, including Eng Hup Shipping. The outbreak of COVID-19 virus in 2019 also had an impact on the company’s business.

Fortunately, the team is very united. Tommy recalled when the government announced the lockdown measures on April 7, 2020, an employee volunteered to take a salary reduction to help the company tide over the challenging times. It is such team spirit and support from his fellow colleagues that drives his passion and enriches his entrepreneurial journey.

Under the leadership of Tommy, the company embarked on multiple digital transformation projects, adopting new technologies to improve manual processes and sharpen their competitive edge. Eng Hup Shipping was also appointed as one of the ambassadors of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Maritime Digitalisation Playbook initiative.

The team believes that sustainable development will become the cornerstone of the new economy and are working towards vessel electrification. Eng Hup Shipping, as part of a consortium led by Keppel Offshore and Marine, also received funding from MPA and Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) to develop one of the first electric harbourcrafts in Singapore. Eng Hup Shipping will be retrofitting an existing passenger ferry with systems for the vessel to be electric-powered, as part of the bigger plan to develop Singapore’s first comprehensive electric vessel supply chain by 2025.

During the interview, Tommy shared many values that will inspire other entrepreneurs:

Courage and determination – whether in life or in the journey of entrepreneurship, we will inevitably encounter various challenges and obstacles. Tommy believes that it is important to have an indomitable spirit and continue moving forward unremittingly in the face of difficulties. When encountering setbacks, instead of being discouraged, we should take the opportunity to reflect, learn, and then move onwards to the next goal.

Humility – For Tommy, it is also very important to maintain a humble attitude and be willing to learn from the people around him. He not only invests time to improve and learn new skills, he often creates opportunities for the young and senior team members to learn from each other.

Finally, Tommy believes that in the coming days, the two major trends of decarbonisation and automation will transform the marine industry. In order for the company to keep up with these changes, Tommy and his team adopt the following mindset:

1. Be Ready – understanding that transformation is not a matter of “if” but “when”.

2. Responsive – stay ahead of the industry’s changing trends by being agile. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the company has also made many updates to its Business Continuity Plan (BCP) so that they are always prepared for sudden changes in regulations.

3. Resilience – constantly learn, unlearn and relearn in order to remain competitive in the face of an evolving maritime landscape.

I believe that with Tommy’s leadership, Eng Hup Shipping will continue to grow to greater heights!

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