Maersk Line, the world's top container shipping company, has merged its Singapore and Hong Kong regional offices.
Hong Kong is now headquarters for the combined operations, while the Singapore outlet is a country cluster office overseeing the shipping line's business in South-east Asia. The company expects to boost staff strength here as a result.
As part of reorganisation efforts, Maersk has reduced the number of its regional offices from eight to seven by merging its Asia-Pacific (South-east Asia and Oceania) and North Asia regions.
"The regional responsibility for Asia-Pacific will be in the combined Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong," the company said in a statement to The Straits Times.
Previously, its Hong Kong office oversaw operations in North Asia, comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
The existing regional management team in Hong Kong will remain and oversee a larger geography, the company added.
"The merger of the regions is in line with internal re-organisation of the company," said a spokesman. "Combining the two regions will enable simpler and more standardised processes. "This will allow us to create a leaner organisation to operate with greater transparency and alignment on a regional, as well as cluster (sub-regional), level."
The company's office here will oversee Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar.
This means that there will be more jobs based here as a bigger management team is being set up to head the South-east Asia cluster, Maersk said. "We have been operating in Singapore since 1975 and Singapore remains of strategic importance to the entire Maersk group."
The company has investments of more than US$12 billion (S$17 billion) here and is one of the largest shipowners in Singapore with around 130 vessels and rigs under the Singapore flag.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said the sector is going through a rough patch, with more consolidation and restructuring expected. A spokesman said: "The shipping industry continues to operate in a challenging environment of low freight rates, decreasing demand and overcapacity. This poor market outlook is likely to persist. Low energy prices, the slowdown in the Chinese economy and slow trade growth have dampened global economic activity, with knock-on effects on the shipping industry."
MPA also noted that Singapore remains Maersk's largest office outside of Denmark, with representation from the group's core business areas. Its South-east Asia cluster is now headed by Mr Bo Wegener, previously the country manager for Thailand and Myanmar.