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Amrit Singh: Zeroing in on the global shipping industry

It takes satellite imagery, on-the-ground observation and industry experience to create a clear, worldwide picture of the shipping industry.

Shipping, it could be said, was history’s first global industry.

It goes without saying the field has come a long way from the days of hand-drawn maps and celestial navigation. As the industry has changed, so have those who study it.  Lead Shipping Analyst Amrit Singh, a former ship’s captain, uses 21st century technology and industry expertise to generate a clear picture of which ships are moving which cargo where.

Lead Shipping Analyst Amrit Singh is based in London.
Lead Shipping Analyst Amrit Singh is based in London.

How did you become interested in the shipping industry?

“Basically, I was attracted by the quest for adventure. I wanted to see the world and experience different cultures.  I have traveled across the world and  by the time I was 30, I had visited about 75 countries. I’ve been around to completely new environments, where even if I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t be able to travel to.”

Does your role still involve travel?

“I’m mostly in London, except for work travel. I go to the U.S. and travel within EU for conferences and meeting clients, but that’s about it.  There’s not as much everyday travel anymore, which is okay.”

The Odebrecht Oil and Gas floating tanker is seen in the Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
The Odebrecht Oil and Gas floating tanker is seen in the Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

When it comes to shipping, what are our customers looking for?

“The customers primarily want to track the ship and what it’s carrying. They monitor the ship’s movements and their cargoes  to assess impact on the supply chain. We have a lot of analysis on port congestion and waiting time, ship average speed and storage of oil at sea, among other things. We’ve also been creating commodity trade flows, which allow people to quickly get a sense of what’s happening in a desired timeframe.  The chief selling point for the consumer is they do not have to have individual teams tracking this. We do it for them. It saves quite a few man-hours and frees quite a few people up to focus on analysis or trading from the more mundane part of analyzing ship traffic.”

“When I came here, I was part of the set-up of the shipping team. Our clients can be from commodities brokers and traders to ship chartering companies,  ship owners, shipbrokers and analysts involved in freight, trading, research and risk. We have put this information together to enable client’s take prudent decisions. With the wealth of data that is available, we’re trying to provide as much analytics daily as we can, to simplify it all.”

A boat sails through the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul. The Bosporus is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
A boat sails through the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul. The Bosporus is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

What sort of data to have do you collect in order to create this picture for them?

“The position data that we get primarily comes from terrestrial and satellite stations who in turn receive it from ship’s AIS (Automatic Identification System). There is some input coming in from shipbrokers, port agency and vessel inspections, and there’s some from on-the-ground sources as about things like configuration and capabilities  of the port and berth . Basically, if it makes for a clearer picture – if it helps us be more accurate or complete – we want to see it.”

What would you say is the top issue facing the shipping industry?

“On the shipping side, we have quite a large expansion of the global shipping fleet.  Because of that, people see that the shipping rates are subdued, or even weak, some might say. If it is a tanker, the average lifespan is about 25 years.  These ships are going to sail until the economic conditions or regulations make it difficult for the owner to operate. It’s going to take awhile. That’s a significant market pressure that’s going to have to be contended with.”

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at work?

“Well, my daughter is a tennis player, so I sort of cart her around. It’s a good thing I love tennis myself, because we’re always at one tournament or the other. That seems like my life right now!”

Thomson Reuters shipping data is available on the Eikon platform.
Thomson Reuters shipping data is available on the Eikon platform.

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