Singapore’s remaining liner operator Pacific International Lines (PIL) celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, having been founded just two years after Singapore’s own independence. It started with two second-hand general cargo vessels bought from Dutch owners. Its fleet grew rapidly and in the 1980s it began to shift from being a traditional breakbulk liner operator, to focus on operating container services. At the same time it modernised its fleet with purpose built container ships, having acquired its first container vessel Sea Hawk in 1981.
Its first dedicated full container service was launched in 1990, between Southeast Asia and China. In 2004 its liner network expanded beyond Asia to include Europe and North America, though its main focus remains services in Asia and Middle East and also Africa. Its scope has expanded to include container manufacturing, through Hong Kong listed, China-based Singamas Container Holdings, and extensive logistics operations.
Despite all the turmoil going on in the container shipping market, PIL remains as it always has been, a privately owned company. It has consistently expanded and ranks within the top 20 container shipping operators globally, based on shipboard capacity, having a fleet of more than 160 vessels aggregating more than 350,000 teu capacity. But it still offers a range of multipurpose shipping services.
PIL has continued to invest in new shipping capacity and is due to take delivery of 13 new container ships during 2017 and 2018. These include eight large container ships of 11,800 teu, the largest ships the operator has ordered so far. They are designed to neo-Panamax dimensions which will give them flexibility in deployment.
Some of its new tonnage is designed specifically to serve growing trade between Asia and Africa. In 2016 it completed delivery of a series of 12 wide beam container ships of 51,700 dwt and 3,889 teu capacity which operate on its services to Africa.
PIL’s drive to promote trade with, and activities in, Africa were boosted in October 2016 with the opening of the PIL Logistics Egypt Contract Logistics distribution centre.
In August 2016 PIL strengthened its already substantial links with China by signing memoranda of understanding (MoUs)with Chinese state owned companies China Merchants Port Holdings and China Machinery Engineering Corp (CMEC). The agreements are intended to boost business development and overseas projects in shipping, shipbuilding ports and logistics in a strategic partnership, and are linked to China’s One Belt One Road initiative. PIL and CMEC are to establish a joint venture company in Singapore to develop container depot, inland transport and logistics solutions in Africa. PIL has also signed a MoU with the Singapore branch of China’s Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and ICBC Financial Leasing Co. covering shipping-related financial products and services.
PIL managing director, Teo Siong Seng said that the new collaborations are testament to the potential benefits for businesses participating in One Belt One Road campaign.