An interview with Elaine Yu FICS - Chair of Singapore branch

Posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2023


Elaine Yu FICS - Chair of ICS Singapore

Elaine Yu FICS believes that 'tomorrow is another day'. Certainly her work as Senior Freight Charterer ensures every day is different. But, as she explains, this helps to keep things interesting.

The challenges of chartering

"Chartering a ship for a cargo sounds as simple as calling a taxi, but actually there's a lot to take into account. There's the freight rate, vessel compatibility, preference of shipper, accountability of ship itinerary, port background and performance of the contractual counterparty…Balancing all these and finding the best logistics solution makes the chartering life challenging. It's also where the excitement comes from, and that's where I find genuine enthusiasm for my job."

Elaine's passion for her work is clear to see. In fact, there are so many things she enjoys about the shipping sector that she has trouble determining which has priority.

Facilitating global trade

"One of the notable aspects about a job in shipping is the opportunity to contribute to the global movement of goods and the facilitation of international trade. All the economic news you see on the TV - that's your job. This helps to grow your awareness and opens new horizons for you. Shipping is very fulfilling to those who enjoy a dynamic, interconnected and ever-evolving industry."

And, she continues, the industry has most definitely been dynamic of late.

"The shipping landscape has witnessed rapid changes in the last few years. There have been various factors, including technology, pandemics, the environment and associated decarbonisation initiatives & regulations as well geoeconomic fragmentation."

Taking personal responsibility

Overcoming these challenges, in Elaine's opinion, requires a collaborative effort from industry stakeholders.

"There is a Chinese proverb that says 'When the world is in chaos, every individual has a responsibility'. This emphasises the idea that, in times such as these, everybody has to take ownership for the fate of the world. Collaboration amongst industry players, governments and other international organisations is essential. Investing in research and development, fostering innovation, and promoting sustainable practices will contribute to a more resilient and environmentally responsible shipping industry.

"As well as the challenges these topics represent, they also bring opportunities. To take advantage of these opportunities, and to fit into the ever-evolving shipping community, though, one has to acquire new skills, understand innovations, stay up-to-date on industry trends and regulations. As long as each individual continues to play their part, we will get closer to our goal every day."

An abundance of practical experience

Bringing together and supporting maritime professionals is something Elaine knows all about. As well as her role in chartering, she is also Chair of the ICS Singapore branch. Elaine's relationship with ICS is a long-standing one, beginning with her first job as a Trainee Manager at Danish shipowner Norden back in 2007.

"The ICS qualification was a requirement for all trainees at the company at that time. The ICS course provided me with an abundance of practical expertise and wider-angle market insights I did not learn from books during my studies at maritime university. It helped me further consolidate my knowledge of the world of work."

It was, she explains, not until she became of member of ICS that she truly managed to establish her shipping network.

"Within ICS, I got the chance to know many seniors in the shipping industry, including those whose experience was not directly related to my work. These opportunities to learn and to consult are absolutely priceless. Added to this, my connections from the ICS brought me increased work opportunities. So, when I was offered the seat as Chair of ICS Singapore, I was more than happy to say yes, as I saw a chance to repay the Institute for all the benefits I have received as a result of its work."


Putting experience to good use

With the benefit of her experience as both student and branch Chair at the ICS, Elaine has some valuable advice for those considering undertaking a course.

"I'd personally advise people to understand the course before they start. ICS courses are designed for people who have some work experience already, so the depth can be intimidating for industry newcomers. This can cause frustration for those who are not expecting it.

"Another recommendation - for newcomers and industry veterans alike - would be to set yourself realistic goals. To complete the professional qualification exam (PQE) programme for ICS membership, one has to pass exams within five years on four mandatory subjects and three optional subjects (out of twelve). My recommendation would be to take the exam in one or two subjects during each semester. This way, students have time for sufficient preparation and, ultimately, a higher chance of passing."

Elaine also recommends prospective candidates to check their eligibility for exemptions - candidates with relevant professional or educational qualifications not older than seven years may be exempt for up to three subjects.

"It is always worthwhile to check with the Institute in advance, whether any exemption can be granted on some subjects. This may save on both time and cost for completing the PQE."

Finally, she advises candidates to see the study - and life itself - as a journey.

"It involves personal growth, experiences and challenges. Take your time to embrace change, explore new paths and appreciate your experience along the way. There is no need to rush!"