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HANSA 05-2018

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Schifffahrt | Shipping

Schifffahrt | Shipping »MPP will remain the core of Thorco« Last year, Danish multipurpose shipping company Thorco Projects caught some attention with vessel sales and the launch of a new dry bulk entity. CEO Thomas Mikkelsen talks to HANSA about the strategy for the future, »low hanging fruit« and the support of the owner You have been quite active in the S&P market recently. Will we see more activities by Thorco? Thomas Mikkelsen: Last year we did a lot of sales, yes. We were cleaning up our fleet and adjusted it according to the market prospects we saw. We sold a number of older vessels, but also some units, which we considered not having the technical specifications suitable for the future. We focuse a little bit more on other type of ships. And certainly we are looking if we can use the arising opportunities. What do you mean by the term »not suitable«? Mikkelsen: For example, some of the vessels were Japanese design with some overhang which we have experienced gave us some commercial limitations in the present market. Some other had too little lifting capacity, we also wanted to focus more on the heavier geared types. Other were simply too old. Being a shipowner, you always have to evaluate and adjust your fleet. Do you plan more fleet modernization? Mikkelsen: From a seller’s point of view we have done what we needed to do. We are not really in the market now for selling further assets. We are quite comfortable with the fleet we have and the type of ships we own. Now the focus is to continue the development of our company and to see if we can grow even further, using the opportunities which certainly are around in the present market. As a buyer, we have recently been adding heavy lift vessels to our fleet with lifting capacity ranging between 120 and 400 t. We have been quite active the last couple of weeks. What is the balance of these adjustments? Mikkelsen: Our owned fleet has been reduced. But we have more or less equalled that out, by chartering in more tonnage. In the last two years, we have sold about ten vessels. What about your new bulk division, which was launched in 2017 with chartered vessels only? Mikkelsen: Since we launched the division, we have made it very clear and we will not deviate from that: It is an asset-light business. We will not be a shipowner within the bulk segment. Our core business is and will remain the multipurpose/project business. We established the bulk division as a spin-off in order to utilize the synergies which obviously are there between these two divisions. The markets saw several »cargo interactions« between the global bulk- and mpp markets. Do you expect that to continue? Mikkelsen: We are confident that these synergies will remain, that there will always be a correlation between dry CEO Thomas Mikkelsen is optimistic for the future Photos: Thorco Projects 34 HANSA International Maritime Journal – 155. Jahrgang – 2018 – Nr. 5

Schifffahrt | Shipping cargo commodities and project cargoes. It is not a new thing and the commodity market remains to be an important market as well for mpp ships. There are a lot of low-hanging fruit which we try to take, so to say. Certainly we are confident, that focussing more on having these two divisions under one roof can optimize these synergies. Is there any plan to expand the charter-fleet for the dry bulk division? Mikkelsen: I think so, yes. MPP will remain our core business, but we have allocated a good team for the dry cargo division. Definitely we have the ambition to also grow this division by growing the fleet. The team is still small, but they are doing a good job, growing organically and we will see growth throughout the year. How big the fleet will be, I don’t know yet. We take it easy, we grow quietly and keep the appetite for new opportunities also in the dry cargo business. How big is the dry bulk fleet now? Mikkelsen: It is a mix from short-, medium- and long-term charter and it is changing, but we are between twelve and 20 vessels all the time. Do you have pooling plans for the division? Mikkelsen: Right now, we are doing our own business and try to find the synergies. What the future will bring in terms of cooperation with other operators remains to be seen. We remain open minded, that goes for project and that goes also for dry cargo. But at the moment there is no discussion in that respect. Wind energy is still an important sector for Thorco and the mpp industry Does the same apply to your mpp division? Mikkelsen: We are operating three different pools. But, for example, the one with MC Schiffahrt from Germany is no longer being operated. Ships come and ships go, that’s normal in this market. But the pool concept and the shipmanagement concept remains a vital part for Thorco. We are very happy with the pools we have and we will remain active developing our pool strategies in the future. We do not operate chartering pools. Being a global mpp company with offices around the globe gives us advantages, which others do not have. That’s why we have set up our pool concept for commercial management. A lot of people expect even more consolidation in the market. What is your opinion and what might be Thorco’s role? Mikkelsen: Certainly we are in favor of the consolidation. I think that this is one of the right steps towards improvements in the market. Thorco remains open-minded for whatever opportunities. That goes for cooperation, Joint Ventures or even consolidation. For the time being, we are not in a dialogue, but we are open-minded and always interested in discussions. Do you still feel good support by your owner, the Danish conglomerate Thornico? Mikkelsen: We are very proud of being a member of the Thornico family, and I am pretty sure that they will agree of being proud of having Thorco as part of their family. The reports last year were kind of a misunderstanding. There has never been any doubt in Thorco as a business model, the concern was the shipowning arm. Being an investor, it is quite normal to evaluate the investment, what makes sense and what doesn’t. Thornico confirmed that it will remain supporting and being a shareholder in Thorco Projects. I am very happy to have a family-owned shareholder like Thornico behind me, being financially strong with appetite for growing the business. Our recent development, not only in the mpp division, but also to explore other opportunities in dry cargo, proves, that we have an ambitious shareholder with a strong belief in having a shipping division under its roof. What can we expect from Thorco in the future? Mikkelsen: After adjusting our fleet, we feel we are fit now, we have a good plan. We see a lot of opportunities in the market, which we want to explore. There were definitely some improvements in the mpp market in the last six months. It gives us a strong believe that we are on a good way out of some bad years. I am not saying we are going back to the fantasy years before 2007. We can also live with less. We are confident that we have the right team and the right global platform and we will continue to develop our company in order to remain one of the leading players within the mpp industry. Where do you see the biggest growth potential? Mikkelsen: Actually, compared to last year, all regions are basically showing much better tendencies for the last three to six months. From a global point of view, we are experiencing a lot of positive signals. In terms of commodities, the most productive within the mpp segment has been wind energy. Certainly, it will remain firm and strong for the years ahead. That continues to be a commodity we are very confident in. Let’s see what happens in the oil and gas industry. The oil price has slowly climbed up again, I am sure that this will have an effect on our industry sooner or later. However, it is still too early to start to see cargo movements. Interview: Michael Meyer HANSA International Maritime Journal – 155. Jahrgang – 2018 – Nr. 5 35

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