A glimpse of the inspiring people and stories of the maritime industry.

Women in Maritime

As a young student at Singapore Polytechnic with a Diploma in Maritime Transportation, Lynette Chng landed an internship with a prestigious global shipbroking company, which is known as Clarksons Platou today. That was the turning point for Lynette, who has moved on since and is now a Chartering Officer with Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS).

“It was only meant to be a six-month stint,” she says, smiling. “Short and sweet. I liked it so much, I stayed on for two more months.”

Earning her maritime stripes

This was back in 2000, when Lynette was 18 years old. After eight months at Clarksons, Lynette returned to school, but kept in touch with the people she had met during her internship.

Clarksons eventually offered her a full-time position which she immediately took up. But Lynette’s stint back at Clarksons was not without its challenges.

“Back in those days when I was starting out, shipping was still very traditional,” Lynette recalls.

“The hours were long – if you weren’t in the office, you weren’t doing a trade. You weren’t being productive! This was before the age of Blackberry phones,” she added, laughing. “These days, you can work from home.”

Never one to rest on her laurels, Lynette enjoyed immersing herself in the work.

“Shipping never sleeps,” she points out. “And the hours were part and parcel of earning your stripes. You can’t be afraid of putting in the hard work and long hours.”

Every time you conclude a deal, it’s a win, and you will thrive on it. These individual wins kept me going, and they still do. You have to want to win and be absolutely hungry for it.
- Lynette Chng, Chartering Officer with Eastern Pacific Shipping

A fresh breath of air in a “boys’ club”

Even during her internship days, it had dawned on Lynette that shipping appeared to be a world by men, for men. The realisation did not faze her; it became more important to Lynette that the job itself was gender-neutral.

“Shipping was, and I suppose it always will be male-dominated,” Lynette notes wryly. “Mind you, it’s not like anyone is ostracising women in the industry. It’s purely an observation from a gender-ratio standpoint, that people should keep in mind.”

As a freshly broken-in shipbroker, Lynette thrived in the role, which required a dynamic and outgoing personality. She soon found herself easing into the industry in her own clever fashion.

“On the whole, females tend to take a slightly softer, patient approach to negotiating. This is refreshing in a world where many men would take an outright, black-white approach to negotiations. It gives you room, as a female, to turn deals around to your favour,” she says.

There was a catch: client entertainment. “Brokering entailed entertaining, and there were many things that a man could do, which were frowned upon for women. You couldn’t go out and join a boys’ night, for one,” Lynette laughs.

Instead, Lynette turned her attention to what she could do – understanding her clients’ interests, and taking them to somewhat off-beat, trendy places.

“You can always create relationships in a different way. Doing research and bringing clients to nice places… men tend to skip out on that, when they have the easy option of a boys’ night out,” Lynette says.

“And with female clients, we would go get our nails done, or window shop,” she recalls fondly. “Now, that’s something the men don’t get!”

A tanker broker – and a “superwoman” mentor

Perhaps most importantly, Lynette found a teacher and confidante in a confident, inspiring tanker broker. Mention Debra Hampton, and Lynette can’t help but talk glowingly about her strict, yet open and generous ex-boss.

“As a young trainee, it was really motivating to have someone that I could aspire to be like,” she explains. “Debra knew everything inside-out. She was the actual, living example that a woman could rise to the top in a man’s world.”

Lynette and Debra together, in their earlier days

“Debra was an incredible teacher of sorts, to me,” she says. “If I had a problem, I would speak to her. She would always be fair, and would give me advice for my benefit from a personal standpoint, instead of from the company’s.”

It’s the little moments that would worry you as a trainee, and a mentor can make or break the learning experience. Debra would give me little steps to take – and once I ticked them off right, she would guide me along and teach me more.
- Lynette Chng, Chartering Officer with Eastern Pacific Shipping

Paying it forward to the other women in the industry

“You know, I never quite asked Debra – “could you be my mentor?”” Lynette muses.

“It was a very organic relationship. We would talk about everything under the sun. That’s what makes the relationship so special.”

Lynette with Debra enjoying themselves during one of the company events

Indeed, Lynette thinks of Debra today more as a friend than a boss (“It’s been more than 19 years – I’ve watched her kids grow up!”). The two have even built up an extended network of women in the shipping industry, starting from a Christmas lunch back in 2008.

“The men had all gone out for a boys’ lunch out, so we girls decided to hold our own event,” she says, chuckling.

That first Christmas event was the result of a brainstorm amongst five ladies, but the numbers soon grew as they roped in more colleagues and friends. At the most recent Ladies in Shipping & Trading Christmas gathering, 125 ladies showed up.

Lynette is a keen organiser of these gatherings, such as regular lunch sessions, which go beyond the annual Christmas or festive occasions. “There are random nights when around 30 of us gather together”

Debra (second from left) and Lynette (third from left) during the 10th anniversary of the Ladies in Shipping and Trading Christmas celebration

To Lynette, the lunch is more than a gathering. She sees these as opportunities to get to know her fellow females in the industry, and to share the lessons that Debra had taught her. “It’s our family of women in the maritime industry,” she quips. “With these lunches and gatherings, younger women have a comfortable avenue to learn more about the industry, and build their careers with a strong support network behind them.”

As a Chartering Officer now with EPS, Lynette finds herself in the same position as Debra years ago. “I have a few young brokers who I try to guide,” she says. “These are the sort of relationships that grow over the years.”

As a mentor herself today, Lynette continues to draw inspiration from Debra. “She showed me instead of just telling me. Things like having a work ethic, how to carry myself, and knowing my limits.”

Lynette and Debra reminiscing about the good old times during their recent meet up

Going forward, Lynette intends to share what she has learnt with the next generation of female leaders in the maritime industry.

Through my career, I’ve surrounded myself with women who choose to support others,” she said. “In a male-dominated industry, being in the minority can be difficult. But when you band together, you come out stronger.
- Lynette Chng, Chartering Officer with Eastern Pacific Shipping

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