ONE brand new company

Ocean Network Express Pte., Ltd, better known as ONE, is a brand new company. Jeremy Nixon, the CEO of the container ship operator, stressed the point in an interview with the American Journal of Transportation (AJOT) at their brand new headquarters in One East Tower in Singapore.

There is a genuine reason for establishing this fact from the start. While the legacy companies - MOL, NYK and K-Line - still retain operations in other business sectors, their containership businesses are now (effective in April) all under the ONE corporate banner.

Jeremy Nixon
Jeremy Nixon

The ONE offices clearly reflect the branding - the company’s meeting rooms are designed like ocean containers and the magenta is everyplace. Like the new name the color magenta is very much a part of the new corporate identity. It is the color of the boxes and of the ships in the fleet.

Even the choice of headquartering the company in Singapore reflects the notion ONE is a new company. As Nixon explained, while the three carriers all had an important corporate presence in the Southeast Asian maritime business hub, the overarching reason for establishing the headquarters in Singapore is simple, “it isn’t Japan.”

This distinction is from the bottom up. Unlike many mergers, the employees, like Nixon himself, left their former jobs with the legacy companies and joined ONE. This is significant to establishing a healthy corporate culture. More often than not, the slicing of staff begins shortly after the ink dries on the merger paperwork. Nearly anyone who has been in the business for any length of time has experienced the unease of not knowing whether your job or your colleague’s position is on the chopping block. But as Nixon says of ONE, “this is like we are all in our freshman year at university…everything is new” and in the Singapore office there is a palpable sense of embarking on a great adventure.

Because it is a brand new company, ONE is in the midst of staffing up to match its “product” and is at the moment “a little stretched” as Nixon says.

Currently, one has 400 employees in the Singapore HQ and 10,000 globally.

One major advantage of the tripartite corporate stool underneath the company is a healthy balance sheet with $3 billion in funds. There probably is no greater danger to a launch than being undercapitalized.

Nonetheless, combining three carrier operations is not for the faint hearted. Nixon explained the launching strategy for ONE was to “keep it simple.” From a practical point of view maintaining the existing alliances and routes was key. The ships are “chartered in” from the three parents and the boxes are leased from the legacy companies. As Nixon explained “there is a natural agency cycle” to freight contracts that the company is transitioning through but by May it “should be smoother sailing” as all the contracts migrate to ONE.

Although ONE is clearly a new company, there are attributes inherited from the parents - the corporate “DNA” that is important to the new company. Nixon says, like the parents, there is a “strong focus on customer service and strong focus on process management” which are key to ONE’s business identity.

Nixon’s assessment of the company’s freshman year is “we must walk before we can run…we must make our customers happy with our service”. And where necessary “tidy up” what problems arise. But in 2019 Nixon says they will be more innovative with its services and coverage and with the technological changes already being explored.

George Lauriat
George Lauriat

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