#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Punit Oza
Well-known in the Singapore maritime community, with over two decades of commercial experience in dry bulk shipping, our next guest shares with us his passion for maritime law and his insights in the ADR industry.
He is none other than Punit Oza, Executive Director of Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA). Punit took the helm only last year, but he is no doubt a great fit for the position. He has a vast amount of experience working extensively in Thailand, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore, with companies such as Noble Chartering, Astra Shipping, Aries Shipbroking and Torvald Klaveness.
We had the opportunity to interview Punit to find out more about his goals for SCMA in the coming 2 to 3 years, his leadership style, 3 facts not many know about him and more!
Read his full interview below:
Q: With your appointment as the Executive Director of SCMA just last year, what were you most excited about working on when you took up the new role?
A: Having worked in commercial roles in maritime and trading firms for over two and half decades and equipped with a law degree and a passion for maritime law, I was truly excited to move into a role which could blend all these aspects. I was excited about the possibilities the role offered and continues to offer.
Q: When did you realize your passion for maritime law?
A: My parents are lawyers, and my maternal grandfather was a judge as well, so I like to believe that I always had a bit of law in me. As I moved into the maritime industry, there were no opportunities to pursue legal studies. All that changed in 2008 when the financial crisis hit and my then employer, Torvald Klaveness, pushed all the employees to reskill and I enrolled for LLB from University of London along with my job. I thoroughly enjoyed studying for the law degree, even with a tough work schedule. That is when I discovered my passion for law and maritime law.
Q: Do you see any significant change in the ADR landscape in the upcoming years?
A: As they say, “Change is the only constant.”. The ADR landscape will also change in the coming years. COVID-19 has hastened the process of ushering digital technologies and virtual hearings and I believe that ADR will continue to embrace and adopt these, even after COVID restrictions ease off.
Another continuing trend is Asian influence and trade, which will result in a greater share and role for Asian ADR institutions in future. I also believe that blended ADR solutions will gain momentum, especially with more countries incorporating the Singapore Mediation Convention into their domestic laws.
Q: What are your goals for SCMA for the next 2 to 3 years?
A: SCMA is a young institution, set up in its present form only in 2009. SCMA’s strategic vision is to become the leading Asian arbitration institution for maritime related disputes. While this will surely involve raising SCMA’s awareness, it will have to be coupled with two other goals – greater industry adoption of SCMA and maintaining relevance of SCMA’s products and services.
As SCMA’s past chairman, the late Mr Goh Joon Seng put it, “As SCMA matures with time and assumes a higher profile as a premier maritime arbitration institution, it is our expectation that SCMA will soon assume the role of the 4th horse, joining the trifecta (SICC, SIAC and SIMC) in the race for Singapore to realize its ambition to be a top arbitration center.”.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I consider my leadership style to be a blend of various styles. While primarily I am a democratic leader, building on consensus of the team, I do have shades of coaching as well as authoritative styles. With a small team at SCMA, each member’s views, opinions and contributions carry tremendous weight and value. Therefore, my leadership style has evolved with this structure.
Q: Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
A: I find inspiration in all the people that I meet and interact with. I mentor a few young students and believe it or not, I have learnt a lot from them as well. My parents, my wife and all my bosses have made extremely strong impression on me and provided me with inspiration.
Q: Could you share some advice to aspiring young individuals who are looking to join the maritime industry? What should they look out for?
A: Maritime industry is at its most exciting stage ever. Responding to the three themes of Digitalization, Decarbonization and Disruption, companies are embracing technologies at a breakneck pace and exciting new roles are available for the young people joining the industry. With greater data democracy, the younger team members have more say in decision making, than ever before and that bodes well for the new entrants. At the same time, due to absence of continuous professional development (CPD) requirement in the maritime industry, the young individuals must ensure that they continue to regularly upgrade their skills.
Q: When we are able to travel again, which country (or countries) would you like to visit the most?
A: Three countries, other than Singapore, which are very special to me are India, Thailand, and USA. I have close family and friends in all these countries and really look forward to replacing zoom calls with some quality face to face time.
Q: To get to know you more on a personal level, tell us 3 fun facts not many people know about you!
A: One, in my spare time, I love writing poetry and have contributed to various publications in Asia and even contributed a poem for BBC Radio.
Two, I am huge fan and trivia buff of Indian movies (Bollywood) and continue to participate and win Bollywood quizzes even today.
Three, I am passionate about teaching and mentoring young students as well as upcoming start-ups in the maritime space and do so in evenings after work.
Q: Tell us 3 things that comes to your mind when we mention Maxwell Chambers.
A: Dispute Resolution, Efficient and State-of-the-art Technology.