Schifffahrt | Shipping Ship managers going bigger on data The transformation from manual to digital processes keeps third party managers on their toes while the recovery in shipping markets offers greater opportunities to some. A special report by Michael Hollmann
Schifffahrt | Shipping This year proves to be a turbulent and dynamic year for third party ship managers, with quite a bit of fluctuation of vessels following ownership changes, major boardroom reshuffles and continued diversification through smaller acquisitions and investments. Some of the medium-sized service providers behind the big two (V.Group and Anglo-Eastern) are reporting considerable growth in the full technically managed fleet since last year. Apart from more aggressive marketing, the increase in shipping activity – especially in the offshore sector – stimulates new business in the sector. Further, the looming 0.5% sulphur cap for marine fuels creates fresh demand for advisory services and solutions. Internally, all the ship managers have never been more focused on change and transformation than today, with digitization and big data revolutionizing work processes and decision-making inside ship management companies. As emphasized by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement: »2019/20 will be defining years for the shipping community as they try to reinvent their business through digitization and setting long-term digital road maps.« Some of the larger service providers installed central operations control rooms or fleet performance monitoring hubs over the past years, others are now following suit. Once all or the majority of managed tonnage is connected, the challenge is to translate all the incoming data and information into smarter decisions. Early evidence suggests that superintendents in the local offices and crews on board the ships benefit a great deal from the enhanced transparency and intelligence that is relayed to them. Implementing those new digital solutions and interfaces with shipowning clients requires substantial investments. This could place international third party managers in a better competitive position versus smaller or medium-sized managing shipowners who may struggle with such investments. However, independent providers of ship management software are refining their solutions, too. In fact some of the larger third party managers are marketing their own software solutions externally. Will cloud-based off-the-shelf services offer the same benefits to smaller managers and thus create a level playing-field? Leading ship management companies »2019/20 will be defining years for the shipping community as they try to reinvent their business through digitization and setting long-term digital road maps« Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement The next big challenge for every third party manager this year is the transition to the 0.5% sulphur cap. While it is operators and charterers of ships that ultimately decide what type of compliant fuels are going to be used from 2020, it is ship managers who have to work out and implement new fuel oil bunker and consumption plans together with their clients. Bunker tanks must be cleaned in time for the switch to new fuels, tanks may have to be modified, equipment upgraded and new spare parts delivered – to hundreds of ships under management. Above all, many thousands of seafarers need to be trained to ensure smooth operations and maintenance of ships under low-sulphur operations. Third party managers have set up central teams supporting superintendents with information and technical and engineering resources for the implementation of ship-specific switchover management plans. Only a minority of ship owners already commenced tank cleaning operations by the time HANSA talked to executives in third party management in early July. »A lot of decisions are going to be made in August and September«, explained Olav Nortun, CEO of Thome Group, while Franck Kayser, group managing director V.Ships, said he expects preparations for the switch to peak in Company Technical management Crewing only V.Group (UK) 650 400 Anglo-Eastern Univan (HK) 634 209 Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (CYP) 400 200 Columbia Shipmanagement (CYP) 320 60 Wallem (HK) 262 9 Thome (NOR) 220 209 Wilhelmsen Ship Management (NOR) 180 230 OSM Maritime Group (NOR) 170 400 Zeaborn Ship Management (GER) 148 2 the end of the third or beginning of the fourth quarter. Looking at fleet statistics and our »ranking« of third party managers, there have been relatively moderate changes compared with last year. The big two players – UK-based V.Group and Hong Kong-headquartered Anglo-Eastern – still have quite a lead over the rest when it comes to number of vessels under full technical management. Scale alone is not a priority, though, most executives point out, with some of them suggesting that a fleet size of 200–300 units may be enough to basically achieve the optimum economies of scale. A few managers submitting data, seem to have expanded their business on the technical management side quite notably: Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, Columbia Shipmanagement, Wilhelmsen Ship Management and OSM. On the crewing side, V.Group/V.Ships and OSM reported significant increases over the last year. As far as mergers & acquisitions are concerned, the last 12 months saw continued activity, mainly on a smaller scale – except the investment of US fund manager Oaktree in a 49% stake in Singapore-headquartered OSM in July 2018. This can be considered a major deal, perhaps highlighting growing interest of private equity firms in ship management in addition to shipping assets. Service providers that expanded their operations or services through acquisitions either directly or through group affiliates include V.Group/V.Ships, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, Wilhelmsen Ship Management, OSM and Zeaborn Ship Management, the latter now claiming a more prominent position in third party business. n © mph/HANSA Stand 30.06.2019 HANSA International Maritime Journal 08 | 2019 35
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