Singapore’s Chinese shipping community is close-knit, and one of the main bonding influences is the comprehensive alumni network.

Some 200 Chinese shipping executives gathered at The Westin on Sunday evening for an eight-course dinner organised by the Dalian Maritime University Alumni Association Singapore.

This was the first formal gala dinner that the 12-year-old association has held, as past events were more casual.

Dalian Maritime University alumni president David Zheng, who runs Sea Star Shipping Group, said the association has more than 700 members who were students at four maritime schools — DMU, Shanghai Maritime University, Jimei Maritime University and Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Academy.

Some have settled in Singapore to become citizens.

“I hope the members can use the alumni network to support one another and make progress together,” said Zheng.

The gathering attracted overseas guests such as John Su of Erasmus ShipInvest Group, who flew into Singapore for a Capital Link event — one of the many conferences during Singapore Maritime Week.

The Chinese shipping industry has become a major player. Bruno Bai of Ifchor Galbraiths said Chinese shipping companies have been extremely active in the sale-and-purchase market over the past few years. He estimated 180 tankers had been bought by Chinese outfits.