CMA CGM to set up training hub in S'pore

CMA CGM hopes the training centre can be opened by next September, says Mr Saade. The shipping giant is fresh off sealing its $3.38 billion buyout of Neptune Orient Lines last month - its biggest deal to date and one of the most sizeable in the indus
CMA CGM hopes the training centre can be opened by next September, says Mr Saade. The shipping giant is fresh off sealing its $3.38 billion buyout of Neptune Orient Lines last month - its biggest deal to date and one of the most sizeable in the industry.PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Collaboration between French shipping firm and S'pore varsity aimed at senior staff in Asia

Fresh off its $3.38 billion acquisition of Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), French shipping giant CMA CGM is set to further beef up its presence in Singapore with a planned new training centre for its staff across Asia.

The training centre, to be set up in collaboration with a university in Singapore, will cater largely to staff in leadership positions - including managers, heads of division and directors, said CMA CGM vice-chairman Rodolphe Saade.

He added that the group hopes the training centre can be opened by next September. The partner university has not yet been identified.

"Now that we have decided to strengthen our position in Singapore, we would like to make sure that from Singapore, we would be able to train our Asian colleagues for them to become the managers of tomorrow," said Mr Saade, speaking on the sidelines of the Danish Maritime Forum in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

CMA CGM, the world's third-largest shipping line, has about 5,000 staff in Asia, including 1,000 in Singapore, out of a global headcount of more than 29,000.

Mr Saade noted that the group currently does not have any training centre for its Asian staff, although it sends them to France for training, where it is more "expensive and complicated" in terms of travelling expenses and time.

Its only other training centre is in Ivory Coast in West Africa, which caters mostly to staff in that region.

Last month, CMA CGM sealed its buyout of NOL - its biggest deal to date and one of the most sizeable in the industry. CMA CGM said that as part of the deal, it will move about one-third of its traffic through the Klang port in Malaysia to Singapore and has moved its regional headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore.

CMA CGM and PSA Singapore Terminals have also formed a joint venture to operate and use four container berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4.

Mr Saade said the group - still in the process of integrating NOL's APL brand into its fold - is considering rationalising APL services, although it has not cut any of them.

He had previously said the group will focus on turning loss-making NOL around, with plans to sell US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in assets to strengthen its balance sheet.

He added that CMA CGM has not diverted any of its trans-Pacific routes despite the recent widening of the Panama Canal, which experts have noted will likely compete with routes via the Suez Canal and could, in turn, affect cargo flows through Singapore.

"I think what is good is that you have good competition between Suez and Panama," he said. "As far as we are concerned, we believe nothing (will change) as we do not see too many big ships crossing the (Panama) canal yet.

"One would have expected that more of the 10,000 (twenty-foot equivalent unit) ships will be able to shift from Suez to Panama, but we have not seen that yet," said Mr Saade, adding that the group has no plans to change its shipping routes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'CMA CGM to set up training hub in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe