Chairman Tim Hartnoll's Speech at X-Press Feeders Customer Party in Singapore, 15 September 2022
Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen,
Welcome to our 50th anniversary celebration. My father founded the company as an agency business in Singapore and Malaysia, his first principal was Sea Containers so he chose the name ‘Sea Consortium’ for his enterprise because of its closeness to Sea Containers.
The actual founding date was 17th January 1972. We held a virtual party on the same day in January this year to celebrate the occasion, the X-Press team were very imaginative in connecting offices in Singapore, India, Dubai, Europe and Panama into a famous celebration. Now that we have emerged from the restrictions of Covid we can celebrate it in person with you our customers and partners. It is a happy day and quite a milestone in our history.
I started writing my father’s memoirs at the start of the first lockdown in May 2020, this then migrated to writing a history of the company. The book is nearly ready, my aim was to give each of you a copy today, but you will have to wait a little while longer till it is ready. As with a lot of my endeavours I start them with enormous optimism and energy, had I known then how long it would take and the amount of time I would have spent writing it, selecting pictures and getting the layout right I might not have embarked on this project. However, it will be with a great sense of achievement when it finally rolls off the printing press and the project is finished.
Finished is only a temporary word as I already have another book and a documentary about my family in progress as well as a maritime history of Southeast Asia to be titled: ‘South China Sea the Mediterranean of Asia’ to be published next year.
To give you some idea of the history of the group I will talk about various developments and businesses we have been involved with over the past 50 years.
In the early years up to the early 80s we were very busy leasing containers, container cranes and ships belonging to Sea Containers. My father then developed break bulk liner services principally for timber from Singapore and Malaysia to: Europe with Peter Cremer’s Pro-line; Mediterranean with A C Toepfer and the Arabian Gulf on his own account.
He then invested in Bulk Handling equipment and got a stevedoring license at the port of Pasir Gudang in Johor to load palm Kernel expeller. This business successfully increased the loading rate eight fold. We were also active in freight forwarding of bulk liquids in specialist tank containers for Trafpak.
By the time of the 80s, we had learnt the business of chartering and operating ships in our own services, albeit break bulk services. My father then went on to setting up a container service to Dubai and a feeder service to Bangkok.
These first tentative steps were to lead him on to setting up West Asia Kontena line in 1982. WAKL as it was known started four feeder services three hubbed over Dubai serving: the Arabian Gulf, Karachi and Bombay. One service hubbed over Colombo serving Cochin in southern India. It was the dawn of containerization of the Indian sub-continent trades. There had been no investment in updating ports and building container terminals so in the early days small geared feeder ships started calling Indian ports. My father’s concept was that of a common carrier running scheduled services selling space to the main line operators, relying upon the MLOs outsourcing distribution of their containers to a third-party carrier. We did not own or lease any containers to avoid competing with our customers.
Take up was slow to begin with as this novel but logical concept of the way that inter-modalism would develop took time to become widely accepted and adopted. However we persevered, we started with APL and then added DSR lines, SeaLand P & O, Nedlloyd and many others.
We sold off or closed any remaining businesses in order to solely concentrate on building our feeder business into a global enterprise.
By the early 90s we had full coverage of all the significant Indian subcontinent ports and for a 3-year period were carrying 20 % of all the containers that moved in and out of India. Gradually investment in new container ports, inland container depots and intermodal rail services changed the face of the liner services which started calling directly at these new ports.
In the late 80s, we started geographical expansion with the opening of new services hubbed over Singapore and then eventually China and East Asia.
The year 2000 saw us enter the Mediterranean, then in 2004 north Europe followed by Latin America and the Caribbean in 2010.
I took over from my father 30 years ago as Managing Director in 1992 then as Chairman when Tristan took over the CEO’s position in 2012.
We have our own offices in Singapore, Port Klang, India, Dubai, Barcelona, Hamburg, Southampton, London and Panama. Globally we operate a total of 100 container ships in 85 services calling at 71 countries. In 2022 we expect to carry 6 million TEU.
Looking back at the past from the present group we are today, the road has not been an easy one with many challenges and reverses along the way. It might seem pre-ordained that we would survive and reach our present position but all growth was funded by internally generated funds. We reinvested all the profits, and I had many sleepless nights worrying about business problems.
We ventured into ship owning with the purchase of our first container ship in 1993. Today we have a fleet of nearly 100 ships, mostly container ships, but we also have offshore support vessels, bulk carriers one tanker and an order book or 27 new building container ships.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work, dedication and good humour of our staff the X-Press feeder family. We also have to thank you our customers and partners for all your support and encouragement.
🎉50th Anniversary Video Part I🎉
🎉50th Anniversary Video Part II🎉