HE HAD settled into retirement but four years after putting his feet up, logistics industry veteran Peter Tan is back in the game.
His aim is to help steer its new maritime logistics arm, iG Logistics, and set it on the right course.
Mr Tan's 36-year-old son Kenneth is the executive director of iG Logistics, which was set up in the fourth quarter of last year.
Mr Tan senior said iG Logistics is not very different from Sembawang Kimtrans, where he served as chief executive since its incorporation in 1994.
Sembawang Kimtrans listed on the Singapore Exchange in 2000 before it was taken private in 2007 after being acquired by Toll Holdings, an Australian logistics company.
Mr Tan was lured back into the the maritime logistics industry by the sheer wealth of opportunities he saw around him.
"During my retirement, I travelled around the region and met up with many businesses. Listening to them has given me a greater vision of the industry and motivated me to come back to build a system to meet their needs," he said.
The untapped markets in Vietnam and Myanmar, in particular, are awash with potential, he added. He noted that certain perishable exports from these countries, such as seafood and vegetables, will likely increase and prove a boon for the shipping industry in addition to carrying other commodities such as coal and mining.
iG Logistics offers twice-daily services between Singapore and Batam, shipping anything from toys to electronics.
"Batam has proven to be a great stepping stone for our company to expand. The company may still be in its infant stage, but we have done quite well for ourselves," said Mr Tan, 58.
He estimates that the firm will generate revenue of about $20 million this year, increasing to $35 million within five years.
While iG Logistics has only one vessel in service, Mr Tan aims to acquire two more vessels by the end of this year to join the Singapore-Batam route. There are also plans to extend services to Vietnam and Malaysia within two years, while the headcount could reach around 200 workers in the same period.
He expects maritime logistics to benefit as moving goods on land becomes increasingly pricey in the wake of more expensive vehicles. But it is not all smooth sailing for shippers.
One major challenge is the complex regulations that govern ships travelling in other countries' territorial waters and docking in foreign ports.
Another involves the decline in the number of Singapore-born sailors.
"During the 1960s, there were many Singapore sailors. But their numbers started dwindling by the 1980s and by the 1990s, most of the shipmen at our ports were foreigners. There are just no sailors from Singapore any more," said Mr Tan.
Although iG Logistics has 35 local workers, the 12-man crew on its Singapore-registered vessel is foreign.
But Mr Tan and Kenneth seem undaunted. They plan to expand the business by merging or buying out new start-ups or small and medium-sized enterprises in the logistics business.
"We want to help these businesses, especially those without succession plans. They can consolidate the business and get a good payout while we get to grow our company. It is a win-win situation," said Mr Tan.
There is a personal motivation behind his return to the industry as well - it helps to set up Kenneth to follow in his footsteps.
"It will be a waste if no one takes over the company after I retire. I really love to share the knowledge and expertise that can only come from experience," said Mr Tan, who first began as a port operator in Jurong Port and has spent 30 years in the industry.
He is hoping that his grandchildren enter the business as well.
Kenneth certainly does not seem fazed about working with his father. He said: "There is no extra pressure. I approach this job like every other job and I put in my very best into everything I do to make the company great.
"I really love this job, especially getting to meet new, different people at networking events. Maritime logistics is about creating links and building trust. It is a people-to-people business."
They intend to take the company public within the next two years. Maritime logistics is a very capital-based, asset-driven business and a public listing is a good way to raise the funds needed to grow iG Logistics, said Mr Tan.
Other plans include scouting for a location for a new 8,000 sq ft headquarters to replace the 3,000 sq ft office in Boon Lay Way.
Mr Tan intends to dole out shares to staff once iG Logistics goes public, which he believes will help employees take ownership of the company and build loyalty.
"This way, the company will be united and strong. Our staff are the most important asset we have. We must share the wealth so that everyone benefits," he said.