Shanghai dry cargo shop Seamaster Shipbroking has hired former Baltic Exchange Asia Pacific head of sales Marcus Lee to drive its further expansion into shipping and financial services.

Lee will serve as chief executive of all divisions of the company from his Singapore base.

“We plan to become a comprehensive service platform for the international maritime industry,” Seamaster chairman Ji Wenyuan told TradeWinds.

Dry cargo

Dry cargo broking, especially capesize, still accounts for the majority of Seamaster’s business. The company already has a dry cargo desk in Singapore as well as port agency LN Steamship, in which it has gradually expanded its shareholding.

“We are planning to transform the company,” Lee said. “Leon [Zhang, of Seamaster’s Shanghai broking desk] is the main guy on the broking side. I am more focused on the strategic role.”

We are planning to transform the company,” said Lee. “Leon [Zhang, of Seamaster’s Shanghai broking desk] is the main guy on the broking side. I am more focused on the strategic role

Marcus Lee

Lee said he plans to explore three new areas of business: developing services for ship closings in the Chinese market, working with China’s regional authorities to develop “outward facing” shipping exchanges, and creating a new financial product to offer structured finance for cargo interests in container shipping.

Baltic exit

Lee, who started in shipping as a tanker derivatives broker, spent nearly a decade at the Baltic before leaving earlier this year, citing personal reasons.

His departure followed that of Asia Pacific head Chris Jones, who subsequently joined law firm HFW as a maritime consultant.

Jones was replaced by Lu Su Ling, an official of the Baltic’s owner, the Singapore Exchange, while former Howe Robinson chemical tanker broker Mark Mah took the head of sales slot.

But now Jones and Lee will be cooperating once again, this time on ship closings in China.

“Chris [Jones] is helping HFW to promote ship closing services in China, and I intend to work with them,” Lee said.

Digital transformation has made this kind of structured finance possible, but banks have a lot of compliance issues because it has never been done before

Ji Wenyuan

Jones introduced a related offering while at the Baltic in Singapore, involving pure escrow services. But that failed to get off the ground because there was “too much documentation” involved, Lee said.

Closing deals

HFW on the other hand does between 200 and 250 ship closing deals a year, and the regulatory burden is lighter when escrows are just one part of the package.

As for the development of new regional shipping exchange businesses, Lee would not be drawn on which Chinese cities Seamaster is working with.

But Seamaster chairman Ji is already involved with the Xiamen Shipping Exchange in south-eastern China as a board member of the Xiamen Port Group, and Ji indicated that Seamaster is also exploring a cooperation with the port of Haikou on the island province of Hainan.

Structured finance

Lee said the clients and the technology provider are in place for Seamaster’s structured financing product for container freight forwarders and manufacturers shipping from China. He added the plan could move forward quickly if the right funder signs on.

“Digital transformation has made this kind of structured finance possible, but banks have a lot of compliance issues because it has never been done before,” he said.