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Top ship managers extol the merits of 'added horsepower'

Top ship managers extol the merits of 'added horsepower'
Leaders of the four largest ship management groups riffed harmoniously on the advantages of scale when they shared a conference panel during London Internal Shipping Week yesterday.

Bjorn Hojgaard (pictured), chief executive of the newly merged Anglo-Eastern Univan Group, explained that his company Univan had been “doing well but had a lot of work ahead of us” catering for a growing fleet that required an increasing network of service centres in different countries across various time zones.

“As the smallest of the largest ship managers there was a risk we would become the largest of the small ship managers and lose relevance,” he said. Instead, the prospect of merging with the larger Anglo-Eastern Group with its compatible values would “add horsepower, with a bigger team to do more."

V.Group executive director Bob Bishop reiterated that his group was currently investing $30m in growing the business, as his ceo Clive Richardon had explained earlier in the day at the 2nd annual International Shipowning and Shipmananagement Summit organized by Shipping Innovation. “To get that kind of horsepower going you can’t do it on a small number of ships.”

Olav Nortun, ceo of the Thome Group of Companies, chimed with the sentiment that ship managers ”have to invest” to stand still in the business, let alone grow. A larger organisation meant better career prospect for shore and seagoing staff, he added, thereby helping solve the succession problem of a greying industry, but it was important to develop appropriate training models to “build a talent culture”, in the process identifying what competencies staff would like to develop.

Norbert Aschmann, ceo of Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM), agreed that “if you don’t care about the potential of your people, you’ll lose them.” Having seagoing experience was no longer an essential prerequisite of the industry, he opined, with a ship manager’s team requiring people with commercial and general management and communication skills as well as technical problem-solving.

Questioned by Seatrade Maritime News whether smaller ship managers still offered any advantages, Bishop replied that the counter-argument against size most commonly advanced is that “the client is lost” in large organisations.

But that argument simply “doesn’t stand up,” he continued, because of what he called the ‘fleet cell’ model employed by all large managers. “When a maximum number of managed ships is reached you just create a new cell – it’s infinitely scaleable.”

In short, there was clear unanimity among these members of the self-styled “1st division” of ship managers that the gulf between them and smaller players was “wide already already, and will get wider,” as one put it, with scale bringing clear advantages in areas such as purchasing, availability of manpower and training.