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MISC Berhad is a leading provider of international energy-related maritime solutions and services. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, its core businesses include energy shipping which largely covers liquefied natural gas (LNG), petroleum and product shipping and its related activities, owning and operating offshore floating solutions, marine repair and conversion, as well as heavy engineering and construction. This year marks 50 years since the company’s inception and The Japan Times interviewed Yee Yang Chien, MISC president and group CEO, to find out how the company has evolved and its ongoing ties with Japan.

How has the company evolved over the past 50 years?

We started off in 1968 to support trade and economic development and at the same time promote the maritime sector for Malaysia. In 1997, MISC became part of the Petronas Group — Malaysia’s national oil company. Naturally through time, we have been shaped by the changes in the industrial landscape, whether that is global maritime changes, or economically or how trade actually flows. So, we have evolved and realized that the global shipping industry is one that is very asset-intensive, requiring lots of investment before we can generate revenues. Today we are known within the global shipping fraternity as one of the strongest in terms of our expertise and commitment to our customers and partners.

Has your core approach changed along the way?

When we first started we had various streams of business, which cut across multiple aspects of shipping, from container shipping to dry bulk and LNG, oil and chemical products. Along the way we decided that the company should focus on energy supply and build our core capabilities around the energy space. But obviously things are rapidly changing with the way that energy is being produced and shipped and because of considerations for the environment, we are also taking those things into account.

How are you evolving with regards to those environmental issues?

It doesn’t matter which industry you are in, each of us has a role to play to preserve the world. This is a call to our own vision and mission, which is about sustainability. Operating our business in a responsible manner and minimizing our impact on the environment whenever possible is vital for us as we operate in a highly regulated industry.

We take it one step further beyond ensuring our compliance by taking proactive measures to manage our impact and emissions as well as in energy efficiency. Our approach largely focuses on reducing our carbon footprint, waste management and biodiversity protection through our operations and implementation of the latest technology that supports sustainable shipping. Apart from that, we also emphasize on the inculcation of environmental awareness and consciousness among our employees.

Can you tell us about that technology?

Over time, engine makers have started producing much more efficient engines, a result originally of oil prices going above $100 per barrel (in 2008), which was expensive for everyone. Because of that we always try to put the best in our ships and that has helped to make changes in other areas, in terms of how the whole ship is built, making it more efficient, consuming less energy. So it’s about a little bit of everything that when added up has a huge impact.

We are also a big believer in LNG, which is available worldwide and is the most practical fuel for us to switch to because it has zero NOx, zero SOx and carbon reduction of about 30 percent. Today, the bunker system is developed around supplying diesel. The challenge for us in the industry and the whole ecosystem is getting infrastructure available so that ships can refuel with LNG.

Has this in any way altered your corporate vision?

Our vision statement is to consistently provide better energy related maritime solutions and services. It is not about wanting to be the largest, the biggest, the best, but a humble vision of trying to do something better every day. It’s a rallying call to employees. We believe if everyone can do that, the results will be good. So it’s all about doing a little bit of everything better to help reduce our carbon footprint.

Your ties with Japan date back more than 30 years, how did that start?

It started off on a government-to-government basis when Japan was looking for a reliable, sustainable source of LNG to power the power sector and Malaysia with its abundance of gas was a natural partner. At the time, our prime minister — who is also our current leader — had a “Look East Policy” and he has always admired the ethics and the culture of the Japanese.

Petronas went into a long-term gas supply between Japan and Malaysia and in fact Japan’s big gas buyers today still call us the Malaysian Project. And to move energy supply you need ships, so that’s how we came onboard. Over the past 30 years we have built strong ties and today we are perhaps one of the largest non-Japanese LNG mover to Japan.

What has made that relationship work so well?

If you look at the values of the Japanese people and some of our values as an organization, there are lots of parallels. For instance, it’s not always about dollars and cents it’s about relationships, forging a sustainable partnership, being able to talk things through and willingness to compromise. Each of us has a financial and economic objective, of course, but I think it’s the spirit of partnership and taking a long-term view that are key. And then there is pride in Japanese employees in the way they discharge their duties. I think with pride comes passion and I think passion is the most important energy for any employee. The tag line for our 50th anniversary is about “People. Passion. Possibilities” and we see a lot of that here.

How has MISC been able to contribute to Japan?

I am proud to share with you that MISC delivered the first LNG cargo from Malaysia to the Sodegaura Terminal, Japan in 1983 and today, we deliver approximately 90 percent of the LNG cargo from Malaysia to the terminals in Japan, which amounts to over 300 million metric tons of LNG. The collaborative partnerships that we have built with our stakeholders in Japan are the cornerstone of our success in delivering LNG exports to this country throughout the years. We pride ourselves on our relentless drive to deliver on our promise without fail and we are here for the long-term.

Are you hoping to grow this relationship?

We have been supporting the energy supply chain in Japan for three decades and will continue to do that even as the LNG trade changes, but beyond moving LNG into Japan, it would be great to partner with Japan in developing things for the global stage. So, for example, if you are going to promote using LNG as fuel for ships in the global shipping industry then perhaps we can come together, pool our resources to develop a solution and prove to the world that it could work. We definitely could not do that alone as it would require the re-engineering of the entire bunker supply infrastructure. This would be something we could do collaboratively because it’s something we believe could possibly be a reality in the near future.

Tell us about your workforce and how you train them.

The traditional way to train a workforce is through technical skills, but we believe it should be more holistic, including teaching them soft skills and leadership skills. But at the core of that, because we are a shipping company, we have our own maritime academy where we train our own captains and chief engineers. I see that there is opportunity for us to expand this platform and go beyond just training them for life at sea and prepare them for other projects in the future that might go beyond their career at sea. That is something we are looking at very closely as part of our initiative to attract the next generation of youth who will become the future leaders of the industry.

Beyond maritime education, MISC recognizes the importance of attracting and retaining the talent within our company and we provide ample choices of career paths for sea and shore staff, as well as opportunities for movement within the organization to shape their skills and enrich their workplace experience.

As we continue to chart our path towards the future, MISC is committed to our credo of consistently doing it better in order to position ourselves, as well as the shipping industry to the outside world as an industry that actively supports the thriving global economy, operate responsibly, as well as provide a rewarding and safe career at sea and at shore.

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