It’s not uncommon to picture a bustling Singapore with an image of our local shipping ports. With our naturally deep waters, the shipping industry has since formed the backbone of our country’s economic growth and continues to play a pivotal role in the years ahead. One of the major players within this thriving industry is none other than Keppel Corporation, led by Mr Choo Chiau Beng.
The CEO started his career with Keppel Shipyard in 1971 and rose through the ranks to his present position. Mr Choo graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Degree in Naval Architecture under a scholarship from the Colombo Plan. He had his sights on working at a shipyard early on and joined Keppel upon returning.
“One of my seniors was a general manager in Keppel, so I decided to join him,” says Mr Choo. ‘I started my career as a Ship Repair Management trainee, but because of my knowledge of naval architecture, I was largely tasked with technical aspects in design and naval architecture issues regarding the conversion of ships.”
A year later, Mr Choo was selected for a six-month course at Kobe, Japan where he had the opportunity to “understand the culture, philosophy and strategy of Japanese shipyards”. Mr Choo then returned to Keppel to the Small Ship division and following that helped Keppel to win the first Singaporean contract with Norway to build offshore supply vessels.
Mr Choo was soon travelling again as Keppel looked to explore ASEAN. “Keppel made some study trips to different ASEAN countries and I was chosen to head a project in the Philippines to start a new shipyard.” Recalls the CEO, “I had to deal with all levels of people, from the workers to the city mayor, and eventually we were able to build a floating Dry Dock to dock Philippine ships and later, international ships.”
He was then posted to Far East Livingston, a subsidiary company where he was the Assistant General Manager. He soon spent 13 weeks at Harvard Business School attending the Programme for Management Development and was promoted to Managing Director and became a Director on the Keppel Main Board.
By then, Mr Choo’s expertise in the offshore business and experience in Keppel has allowed him to streamline the operations of the corporation. “Eventually we decided that the best thing for Keppel group is to privatise all our shipyards and form a single offshore and marine group, which I did in 2002, when we formed Keppel Offshore and Marine where all our yards became fully owned by Keppel.”
Being part of Keppel since 1971, Mr Choo is on his 42nd year in the organisation and through the years, has some words of wisdom for aspiring Singaporeans out there. “Never be too calculative to look at your benefit and your cost beforehand. When the opportunity comes, grab it, do the best you can do and the result will testify for itself.”
For more inspiration, you will be glad to know that Mr Choo Chiau Beng will be the guest speaker of OSU’s Singapore Speakers Series event in Shanghai and Hong Kong come 22nd and 23 Aug 2013 respectively. The event is a great opportunity to hear his views and experiences in the offshore industry, pose him questions, as well as network with fellow Singaporeans. Register for the event in Shanghai and Hong Kong today and have a great evening at the Singapore Speakers Series.
By Clement Wan