Wave of opportunity

Bringing together the two threads of shipbuilding and chartering, the current activities of Lita Ocean Pte Ltd have not strayed all that far from its original foundations in the late 1970s. The company began life in Singapore as a tug and barge owner and operator within the regional trade streams, providing key services in tank cleaning, and the transportation of sludge and explosive cargoes. In just a few years, Lita Ocean had expanded beyond this into providing floating crane, landing craft, and emergency oil spill response services.

Then in the late 1990s Lita Ocean added a new venture to its operations moving into boatbuilding and shipyard services. Executive director, Yingda Yeo elaborates on the driving force behind this shift: “We identified an increased demand in the region for lightweight, fast boats, and as the benefits of using aluminium in boat construction gained popularity we became a specialist in this material.”

In 2000, Lita Ocean delivered two high-speed interceptors to the Immigration and Customs Authority of Singapore, surpassing their expectations with a maximum speed of 52 knots. Only a few years later, the company had delivered more than 50 vessels ranging in size from 12 metres to 22 metres. “In the last two years, our effort to expand the market reach of our boats has resulted in our first vessel sales to India, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and West Africa, establishing a solid reputation as a renowned builder of quality small vessels,” comments Yingda.

This is highlighted by Lita Ocean’s new build deliveries for 2011, some of which Yingda is keen to elaborate upon in greater detail: “Not only have we delivered our first vessel to Australia this year, but this was quickly followed by a further vessel sale to work on the Gorgon project. We have been able to take advantage of the commodities boom in Australia and growth in this region can be expected. Then in April, we achieved another first as a company through the delivery of a 22-metre crew boat to Saudi Arabia. Whilst we have expanded our reach into these emerging markets, we have also maintained our strength in the regional marketplace as a trusted partner.”

All vessels are constructed at Lita Ocean’s Singapore shipyard, which occupies a land area of close to 7000 square metres. This includes a covered workshop with 20 tonne overhead cranes and other equipment, which enables the company to build vessels of up to 40 metres in length. “Beside boat building, we are also the main contractor for the repair and maintenance of Singapore Police Coastguard’s fleet of high speed patrol boats. We carry out many repair and maintenance jobs for other vessel owners as well,” describes Yingda. “We have plans to continue to improve the facilities of our current shipyard through the expansion of the covered workshop and overhead cranes. We may also invest in a bigger capacity crane or travel lift that will be able to handle larger vessels.”

The other major activity within the business is the continuation of its traditional fleet ownership and chartering services. Today this fleet numbers 40 vessels including tugs and barges, landing has been the major marine contractor for Shell’s biggest global refinery at Bukom Island. Here, the company provides a fleet of pilot boats, SBM tugs and mooring boats, and landing craft. Lita Ocean has also been supplying various types of vessels to the Ministry of Defence Singapore for many years, a track record that has earned it consecutive defence partner awards.

As one of the leading shipping companies in the region, Yingda highlights some of the traits that keep customers returning to Lita Ocean: “The business model of builder-owner-operator has provided us with many benefits that are passed on to our clients. Our knowledge gained from operating our own vessels gives us the edge to build boats that are practical, capable and cost-efficient in operations. Our reputation as a reliable and efficient outfit has seen us establish long-term partnerships with many governmental organisations, port authorities international oil majors, and well-established marine and offshore service providers.”

By taking advantage of Singapore’s strategic geographical location, Lita Ocean has been able to cushion the effects of the ailing global economy by taking advantage of new demands in the emerging markets. Yet, this is not to the neglect of local opportunities with work already underway on capitalising on potential shifts in the market: “In anticipation of port developments around the region, we are further developing our range of pilot boat and harbour service boat designs. Currently, we are building a 15.3 metre aluminium pilot boat on speculation. We also plan to further develop variations and improvements on our niche 20 metre plus crew and supply boat designs, and branch out into new crew boat designs in the range of 30 to 40 metres,” says Yingda.

Considering the future in this way, and the challenges that may materialise with it, means that Lita Ocean has a strong forward strategy in place, which uses these elements to its advantage: “We aim to maintain our market leadership in local marine services, and to further expand and renew our fleet to provide comprehensive value added services to our clients. In the boat building sector the increasing costs of operating a shipyard in Singapore due to growing labour prices, will push us to build vessels of higher value and sophistication in the years ahead,” concludes Yingda.

One of Singapore’s leading shipping companies
Offers vessel chartering and shipbuilding services
Recently penetrated new markets including Australia, West Africa, and Saudi Arabia