Make Full Sail
Pen Marine keeps an eye on the past and goes full speed ahead towards the future
Oh Kean Shen is one of the early stalwarts of the leisure boating industry in Southeast Asia – in today’s parlance, one of the OGs. Together with his partner Pheh Hoe Huat, his passion for the industry led to the creation of Pen Marine, and Shen’s dynamic personality has shaped not just the company, but the growth of this industry as well in Southeast Asia.
The early days
Pen Marine was established in 1988 in Penang, Malaysia, and it has represented – and still represents – renowned shipyards, while also manufacturing its own boats for custom orders. It’s all about introducing the perfect boat to anyone who comes through the doors.
For Shen, the call of the sea came to him as a young man. His father had a shipyard in the early 80s, and after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, he was tasked with managing the facility which was involved in repairing military ships.
Due to his acumen, he saw the opportunity for immense growth in leisure and commercial water vessels. Pheh Hoe Huat, his partner who is an avid angler and a highly skilled automotive engineer, was also eager to promote boating in Malaysia, and thus, Pen Marine was birthed.
One of the early boats Pen Marine bought was a 17-foot outboard motorboat from Gordon Robinson of Marlborough Fibreglass, New Zealand. It was purchased to tender the proven hull for the Royal Custom and Excise enforcement boats. Shen had taken it out for a spin to an island off the coast of Penang, but on the way back to the harbour, a bad storm swept in.
The heavy curtain of rain had hidden all trace of land, and GPS systems were not yet available on pleasure boats yet in those days. All he had was a compass, his training, and the conviction that he had bought a seaworthy boat. Shen made it back to the shore safely and it is an incident that he has not forgotten even after three decades.
Full sail towards the future
Developing Pen Marine, and indeed the pleasure boating industry at large, is really a lifetime of events and building relationships. Shen has travelled to many shipyards of the best boat builders all over the world to glean from their vast technical knowledge, and he is also a constant presence in boat shows all over the world.
By building his own knowledge, he is able to continue building and inspiring the team at Pen Marine. Giving the right advice and being able to solve a client’s problems is a matter of integrity for Shen, and this is the way Pen Marine believes in building relationships.
In the past, this has paved the way forward for the industry as a whole. Shen was instrumental in bringing about the removal of import taxes on pleasure boats in Malaysia, and working with Professor PK Mukherjee, he also helped form the Langkawi International Yacht Registry.
Important friends from Heesen Yachts also opened the door for Pen Marine into the megayacht world. Jorge Robaina the President of Sales, Jan Gremmen the Managing Director, and Mr Frans Heesen the owner were key figures in mentoring Shen. The trust and friendship that developed saw the building of 5 megayachts for this region. These megayachts were designed by Frank Laupman of Omega Architect, while Niels Moerske of Van Oossanen created their patented Fast Displacement Hull Form (FDHF).
These relationships were part of the milestones in Pen Marine’s journey, and undoubtedly there will be many more to come that will drive Pen Marine towards the future. Building true and honest relationships, and not just selling boats, is the direction in which Pen Marine wants to travel as it sails into the waters of the future.
And while things like buying a boat, getting out to sea, and selling an older craft seem daunting and maybe even a hassle, they shouldn’t have to be. It’s all about the journey, and not the destination. The compass to point clients in the right direction, the training required to handle any situation at sea, and the assurance from a seaworthy craft – this is what you get when you come to Pen Marine.