Stephen Hill is chief operating officer at Britoil Offshore Services. He works and lives in Singapore with his wife and two daughters. Here, in the first of a series of interviews with MS Amlin clients, he describes his life as a British expat.
Weekdays start early in the Hill household. We’re usually up at 6am and out of the door by 7.15am. After dropping my daughters – 15-year-old Ashleigh and 17-year-old Lauren – off at the British school here in Singapore, I sometimes hit the gym before driving the 20-odd miles from our home to the Britoil offices in Tuas, on Singapore’s west coast. Fortunately the number of cars on this country’s roads are regulated so the traffic is rarely bad.
Our office is in a three-storey industrial unit, close to the Tuas causeway that crosses from Singapore to Malaysia. It’s quite spacious and, although the managers have their own offices, the remainder is laid out open plan as the company encourages an open-door policy among its employees. Just under 60 people work here.
Britoil, the world’s largest provider of anchor-handling tugboats, was formed back in 1988. I’ve been working for the company since I moved to Singapore from the UK in 1997.
My role as chief operating officer is to oversee the day-to-day running of the group. I’m also responsible for financial matters and assisting our CEO with company strategy. As well as our 60 employees in Singapore, we employ around 120 in our Indonesian shipyard (where we build vessels both for our own use and for other operators) and up to 450 crew on all our vessels. We also have recruiting and training centres in Manila and Jakarta. The universal language among employees is English, which simplifies communication. However, working across multiple time zones can be tricky, especially as our vessels operate 24/7.
Britoil is always working on a huge variety of projects around the world. Our two platform support vessels (Britoil Power and Britoil Energy) are used to provide support services to offshore oil and gas facilities while our fleet of 28 anchor-handling tugboats are used for towing, anchor handling, pipe transportation and salvage work. Right now many of these are working in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Angola and the Gulf of Thailand.
I feel very passionate about Britoil. I find the most rewarding part of my job is being able to guide the growth of the company and witness our continuous improvement. Our staff and crew are our most important resource, and I derive a great deal of satisfaction motivating them and seeing them develop within the company.
The tropical climate in Singapore can be very warm and humid, and is pretty much dictated by the monsoons. Between December and March we have the Northeast Monsoon, bringing a lot of rain and temperatures of around 30 degrees. Then, between June and September, we have the Southwest Monsoon when temperatures can rise to 34 degrees. This means most people wear open-necked shirts at work instead of suits. I rarely wear a tie – only perhaps when I’m asking the bank for money!
Once I get home after work – we live towards the middle of the island in a residential area near Holland Village – I like to exercise. Three times a week I go for a run. At weekends I might go swimming. There’s not much countryside in Singapore, except in the north of the island, but there is a fantastic network of what the locals call park connectors – cycling and walking paths that link up the country’s many public parks and gardens.
Singapore is a very vibrant, cosmopolitan city. We live less than ten minutes from the centre so there’s plenty of opportunity for my wife Dawn and I to go to the cinema, theatre, or out to restaurants with friends. We also go to the ballet a lot since my youngest daughter Ashleigh has a scholarship with the Singapore Dance Theatre. We’re also members of the British Club, a sport and social club for expats.
We tend to socialise within the British expat community. We’ve lived here for 20 years now and, in hindsight, I wish we had branched out to get to know the local Singaporeans more. But that’s often the way it is with expat communities. My daughters are much more integrated through their ballet and music interests. Lauren plays the harp.
Dawn, who owns her own Pilates studio, and I are both permanent residents here in Singapore but we still have our British passports, and we still view the UK as our home. My daughters, on the other hand, were both born here so they view Singapore as their home even though they hold British passports, too.
I’m originally from North Yorkshire, in the north of England, and Dawn is from Bedfordshire, in the south. We have family back in the UK and, in the future, we plan to move back there. I was brought up on a farm and I’d love eventually to end up living on one again. That would complete the circle.