Having recently reopened its office on the strategically located Pacific island after a 3-year hiatus using a partner agent, Inchcape Shipping Services resumed direct control over all operational matters, delivering even better service for customers while also looking to expand its service scope.
Inchcape had a permanent presence in Guam since the 1990s but opted to close its office on the Pacific island in 2018. “Given the volume of business in Guam at that time, it made better financial sense to use a partner agent instead. However, the uptick in volumes after the pandemic justified the move to reopen. Another key reason is that our customers universally want Inchcape to handle their ships, not a third party,” says Ajay Dattaram Bhosle, Inchcape Area General Manager in Singapore.
Inchcape’s Asia-Pacific ROC (Regional Operations Centre) in Singapore has overarching responsibility for operations in Guam as well as the Philippines, Myanmar and Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). “However, in future as we grow the team in Guam, they will become the monitoring and communications control point for FSM as well,” says Bhosle.
Supporting military logistics
Guam is strategically very important as a US territory, with increasing activity at two military bases on the island, a US Navy base and a USAF base. “That means we’re handling more calls by logistics and naval ships. Another steady business is the MR tanker Sophia, which calls regularly at Guam. We also handle a smaller tanker distributing fuel onwards to Palau,” says Operations Manager Ariel Dumapit.
The Guam office provides all the usual port agency services but can also deliver more complex services leveraging Inchcape’s unrivalled global network. “Our main business is supporting the military vessels and tankers, as well as car carriers bringing a growing number of new and used vehicles from Japan. We also follow ships up to Saipan and Tinian, our neighbouring Mariana islands to the north,” Dumapit adds.
Expansion on the cards
Dumapit says the Guam office plans to grow its service reach and grow organically through M&A. Most future business will likely be related to military movements. They also want to grow its footprint in project work. “We’re also targeting the cruise market as tourism picks back up. I recently met up with the Guam Port Authority and representatives from a leading Japan-based cruise line for a tour of the port and a presentation of how we handle cruise ships. The government is also engaged in upgrading the port so everything will look nice when the first cruise arrives, which we expect around New Year,” he adds.
Local knowledge is key
Dumapit says what is most gratifying about his job is getting positive feedback on Inchcape’s good service delivery. “Being proactive is crucial. It’s best not to wait for customers to ask questions. I try to give suggestions before they’ve even got there. Knowing how to get things done efficiently and safely is invaluable and reassures principals that their ships and crews are in good hands,” he says.
Bhosle confirms from Singapore that customers in Guam are very happy to see Dumapit back in action for Inchcape. He first joined the company in 1990 but in the meantime has also worked for local port agent Ambyth, as well as a 2-year break from shipping as director of the American Red Cross in Saipan, which he describes as a very rewarding. “When we closed the office in 2018, I returned to Ambyth during the pandemic. Now I’m happy to be back at Inchcape looking forward to new horizons,” he says.