International Women’s Day 2023: In Conversation with Grace Chia

Themed “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” by UN Women, International Women’s Day 2023 celebrates a global movement towards narrowing the digital gender gap and addressing the climate change crisis. This resonates with the broader digitalisation and decarbonisation aims that the maritime industry has embraced to create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

We spoke with Grace Chia, Commercial General Manager at the Asia Regional Office of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), to understand how her organisation has evolved to take on these current challenges.

Grace Chia, Commercial General Manager, Asia Regional Office, MSC

Please share with us more about yourself and your role at MSC.

As the Commercial General Manager of MSC Asia Regional Office based in Singapore, I am primarily concerned with ensuring we serve our customers in Asia in the best way we can by offering transportation solutions designed to match their needs. My role also includes supporting our business partners and helping them to achieve success.

Why were you drawn to the maritime industry (and what keeps you motivated to stay and contribute to its development)?

It all began with my passion for water sports. When I was in my twenties, I spent much of my recreational time swimming, jet-skiing and laser-sailing. The rolling waves and gentle sea breeze gave me an immeasurable sense of peace and calmness. Though it was my affinity with the ocean that first allured me into the world of maritime, I soon realised that a career in this sector meant so much more. I have been in maritime for almost 24 years now, yet still I continue to be awed by its dynamism and endless potential. I am glad to be in this essential industry that not only sustains Singapore’s economy, but also drives world trade and connects the global supply chain.

MSC Sixin, a container ship built in 2019 with a carrying capacity of 23500 TEU. (Image Credit: MSC)

As MSC’s Asia Commercial GM, what are some of the changes that you’ve seen over the two decades from a business perspective?

In recent years, the importance of working closely with various stakeholders in the ecosystem has grown significantly. This has accompanied the streamlining of workflows and equipping our team members with better project management skills.  As the adage by Helen Keller goes, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Besides maintaining closer communications with our partners, there has also been a need to accelerate the digitalization of container trade to enable greater operational efficiencies, reliability, transparency, speed, security and sustainability. The effective usage of digital tools can also contribute towards greater collaboration and customer experience.

Specifically on decarbonization, which is an industry-wide imperative, can you share what MSC is doing on this front?

Sustainability is a strategic imperative for MSC and a business priority.

We recognize the pivotal role we play in creating a sustainable future. To accomplish this, we developed a set of sustainability priorities and a roadmap to help keep us on the right track. For instance, enabling our sector and companies with logistics needs to decarbonize is one of our sustainability priorities.

In translating our aims into actions, I’m proud that MSC is committed to net decarbonization by 2050 and that we are aiming to have our first net zero emissions capable ship in service by 2030. As the world’s largest ocean carrier, MSC strives to be a steward of the world’s oceans, and to this end we have invested substantially in cutting-edge technologies and digital applications to improve energy efficiency.

Since last year, we have been offering MSC Biofuel Solution as our first certified carbon insetting programme that reduces emissions in our customers’ supply chains, accelerating the energy transition by creating demand for net-zero-carbon shipping and delivering direct CO2 savings. Under this program, MSC bunkers responsibly-sourced biofuel, and clients benefit from the CO2 savings, subsequently passing them on throughout the shipping value chain. This differentiates the programme from carbon offsetting initiatives that focus on future emission reductions outside the shipping industry.

In addition, we will soon embark on using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as part of the industry-wide transition towards net decarbonization by 2050.

Most importantly, we are actively exploring and trialing the net-zero fuels of the future and preparing our fleet so ships can be adapted to use a range of net-zero fuels as soon as these become available at scale. This includes synthetic LNG, green methanol and green ammonia, for example.

As the maritime workforce is also evolving alongside these industry changes, what are some workplace practices/ talent initiatives that MSC has in place to meet the aspirations of employees?

To promote continuous learning and upskilling efforts, MSC provides e-training that strengthens the personal and professional development of our people around the world. We aim to enhance the capabilities, knowledge and skills of talented employees. Participants are also positioned for suitable opportunities that allow them to optimise the utilisation of newly acquired skills and competencies, including leadership and management.

Maritime is known to be a male- dominated industry. In this regard, tell us more about the situation then and now, as well as what MSC has been doing to support women?

There are now certainly more awareness and initiatives to promote gender parity in the industry as compared to some 20 years ago.

MSC provides an internal mentoring programme that connects senior female managers within MSC to younger talented women in an effort to promote women’s career advancement and leadership skills. I’m honoured to be one of the mentors to be assisting and guiding the next generation of leaders under this programme.

Personally, as a department head, I have found that some great ways of supporting women’s career growth include creating more opportunities for them to upskill and to lead.

That can be in the form of job redesign or transiting from a silo role to a more interactive and collaborative one. Another example is steering more ad hoc projects within the company to create opportunities for both women and men to take on a leadership role.

Grace conducting a tour for tertiary students during a vessel naming ceremony.

Can you share what are some of your aspirations for the future of maritime (in terms of human sustainability, decarbonization, the digital shift)?

It would be exciting to see more collaboration and healthy competition across the industry and I do believe there are already more of these happening. For instance, MSC recently joined forces with eight other ocean carrier members of the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) to achieve a 100% electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) adoption by 2030. This is a milestone commitment by MSC and the wider industry, and a significant step towards paperless trade which ultimately will make container shipping services efficient, reliable, easy to use, secure and sustainable. More information can be found here.

In the same vein, I look forward to similar collaborations translating to other areas of maritime to spur growth and development for the common good while solving industry problems.

What are your words of advice for young talent today considering a career in maritime/ those already in the industry and would like to advance further?

Be patient and sail through the experiences that have the most capacity to transform you. Be brave and hold out through the storm, even though things may stop being easy or become less rewarding.

Inspired by Grace’s story and wish to make a difference in this evergreen and fast-evolving industry? Head over to our MaritimeONE Connect Career Portal to begin your maritime journey today!

About MSC

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is a global leader in transportation and logistics, privately owned and founded in 1970 by Gianluigi Aponte. As one of the world’s leading container shipping lines, MSC has 675 offices across 155 countries worldwide with the MSC Group employing over 150,000 people. With access to an integrated network of road, rail and sea transport resources which stretches across the globe, the company prides itself on delivering global service with local knowledge. MSC’s shipping line sails on more than 260 trade routes, calling at 520 ports.


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Mr. Lars Kastrup


Mr. Lars Kastrup is the Chief Executive Officer of Pacific International Lines (Pte) Ltd (PIL).

Prior to joining PIL, Mr. Kastrup was CEO of NOL/APL, and subsequently assumed the role of Executive Vice President, Strategy and M&A at CMA CGM Group. A veteran in the global shipping industry with over 30 years of experience, Mr Kastrup’s other roles include Executive Vice President of Assets at CMA CGM Group heading up CMA Terminals, CMA Ships, Container Logistics as well as regional carriers such as MacAndrews, OPDR and Mercosul; as well as Vice President at AP Moller-Maersk.
Mr. Kastrup complemented his tertiary education with leadership and management training at Penn State University and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Angeline Teo


Ms. Angeline Teo is the Managing Director and Head of Global Transportation and Offshore, Global Corporate Banking at OCBC Bank which focuses on the maritime, aviation, land & port ecosystems.
Ms. Teo has spent over three decades in maritime finance. Prior to OCBC, Ms. Teo was working at ING Bank, ABN Amro and DnB in Singapore focusing on maritime and offshore.
Ms. Teo graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration.

Mr. John Martin


Mr. John Martin began his career in London in 1989 with Richards Hogg Lindley Average Adjusters, and qualified as a Fellow of the UK Association of Average Adjusters in 2000.
At RHL he worked in their offices in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2003 he joined Gard Hong Kong, as a claims handler. Mr. Martin also worked in Gard Japan, and in 2014 he moved to Singapore to set up the Gard Singapore office.
Besides running Gard Singapore, Mr. Martin also heads the P&I and H&M claims units and is the Senior Claims Representative for Gard in Asia.

Mr. Cyril Ducau


Mr. Cyril Ducau is the Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte Ltd, a leading shipping company headquartered in Singapore for the past 30 years.

He is also currently the Chairman of Kenon Holdings Ltd and a member of the board of directors of Gard P&I (Bermuda) Ltd. and of the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation Limited, which was established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He was previously Head of Business Development of Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited in London from 2008 to 2012 and acted as Director and Chairman of Pacific Drilling SA between 2011 and 2018.
Prior to joining Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited, Mr. Ducau was Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley & Co. International Ltd. in London between 2000 and 2008.
Mr. Ducau graduated from ESCP Europe Business School (Paris, Oxford, Berlin) and holds a Master of Science in business administration and a Diplom Kaufmann.