Champions for Change: An Interview with the Founders of YPSN Hong Kong

An Interview with the Founders of YPSN Hong Kong

Here’s how the co-founders of YPSN, Su Yin Anand and Tabitha Logan, are changing how we perceive the shipping industry.

As of 2021, the global maritime industry is worth US$1.6 billion and is expected to reach US$2.9 billion by 2027. For our readers who may not be familiar with this space, maritime refers to the movement of people and goods across the world over water. This industry is the backbone of the shipping sector, handling over 80% of international trade. Despite its massive contributions to international trade, there is a lack of awareness about the sector, especially among the global youth. 

Understanding the need for fresh talent in the industry, the General Manager at Hong Kong-based shipping company Asia Maritime Pacific, Tabitha Logan, and the Head of Shipping at Australian mining company South32, Su Yin Anand, came together with a group of like-minded individuals to create Young Professionals In Shipping Network (YPSN) in 2010. 

YPSN is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide a space for young professionals in the shipping and maritime industry to interact with each other. We interviewed Logan and Anand to learn about their experiences in the maritime industry, YPSN and its startup competition, The Captain’s Table. 

Making a career in shipping as a woman

Making a career in shipping as a woman
 Su Yin Anand and Tabitha Logan, Image courtesy of YPSN.

Logan and Anand believe that there are two ways to end up in the shipping industry traditionally—either you stumble into it by accident or have a family member direct you in. As for the cofounders, they both started as maritime lawyers, only to gradually shift to the shipping side of the industry. While Logan was guided into space by an ex-sea captain she met as a lawyer, Anand has a family history with shipping. Her father was a timber trader, and her uncle was a merchant navy officer in India. What makes their journey particularly unique is that they are a part of the very small group of women in the largely male-dominated maritime industry. 

“It has made us somewhat stand out in the crowd. And become sort of a bit more well-known in Hong Kong, which has a smaller shipping industry,” said Logan. She went on to say that Asia has been a great place to enter the shipping industry because it is an emerging market. “They were looking for young people to come in, and they were willing to give people an opportunity, take them into their company.”

When asked why there are so few women in the industry, Logan attributed it to a lack of proper branding. “They very much do want diversity. There’s a big push for that, but I think the problem is the image of the industry. It needs a good sort of PR representative to show the attractiveness of the industry for women and to show them that there are different career opportunities,” she explained. 

Anand added that a lack of societal support for those who wish to have a family and pursue a career at the same time is another reason there are fewer women in not just the maritime industry but also in tech and finance. “I think not enough is being done from a public-private partnership basis to ensure that the ecosystem infrastructure is set up for women to be able to pursue both,” she added. 

Dispelling the misconceptions surrounding the shipping industry

“When people think about an industry in shipping, they think about the seafarers or blue-collar workers working at ports, both of which are really important and, in fact, foundational to the industry. But I think what people don’t see is that there is an entire support system behind it,” Anand said. She detailed that there are various players across the industry to get that ship from point A to point B. 

While some industries have Netflix shows (e.g. Suits, which explain the inner workings of the legal system) where people can learn more about them, the shipping sector’s development and system are absent from the public’s awareness. “In the shipping industry, what have you had so far? We’ve only had Captain Phillips, which is about piracy. So, parents look at it and tell their children, ‘don’t ever go into the industry. It’s dangerous,’” she explained.

In light of that, Logan and Anand know they have to bring the two together—the younger generations and the shipping industry. To teach young people about the industry, Anand and Logan have been giving talks at schools about their experiences and live-streaming YPSN’s startup competition, The Captain’s Table. They want to change how young people perceive the industry by engaging with them through interactive events, such as football tournaments, visits to ships and debate series, as opposed to regular networking events and seminars.  

Addressing industry problems with tech solutions 

Of all the projects YPSN has embarked on over the years, The Captain’s Table deserves special attention. Launched in 2019, The Captain’s Table is a pitching competition focusing on innovation in the maritime and logistics industry. Those participating in this competition not only get exposure to key players in the maritime industry but also receive other benefits, such as free legal advice, social media support, mentorship and a cash prize worth US$30,000. 

“Looking back to the genesis of The Captain’s Table, at the time, we realized that the shipping industry was facing a bit of a digital transformation,” Logan mentioned. “And at the same time, we were starting to get approached by a number of startups that are looking at this space but finding it difficult to connect with the industry.” 

To help these startups, Logan and Anand leveraged the network of industry leaders they had close ties with through YPSN and created The Captain’s Table in 2019. Through the competition, they have been able to shine a spotlight on businesses trying to solve a wide variety of industry challenges—everything from decarbonization and voyage optimization to mental health solutions for seafarers. 

Last year’s winner, 13-Mari, was a unique decarbonization solution that emerged from The Caption’s Table. “The team was using a simple, elegant approach to fuel efficiency by using a composite element designed to reduce drag in the water and hence the fuel consumed,” said Logan.

The duo believes that startups in other industries can also find opportunities in the maritime industry. “This industry is ripe for [growth] right now. We’ve been doing this only for four years, but even in the past two years, we can see a marked difference now of companies approaching us wanting to engage, do POCs (proof of concepts) and have that dialog,” Logan reiterated. If you are interested in learning more about the possibilities in this sector, reach out to The Captain’s Table now!

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Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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