Consolidation activity within ship management may be commanding much industry attention, but that does not mean the smaller ship managers should fear that their interests are being overlooked.
Speaking to IHS Fairplay on Tuesday, newly appointed InterManager president Bjørn Jebsen stressed that the third party and in-house ship management association is determined to represent the interests of ship managers regardless of their size.
“Consolidation is being seen in most industry sectors but there is always a place for small companies. For some of the larger entities, moves to consolidate are based on a business model of economies of scale but others feel different models suit their businesses better,” said Jebsen.
“Consolidation has only affected a limited amount of our members and given that InterManager has both small members and large members, our aim is to represent them all.”
In August 2015, leading Asian ship managers Anglo-Eastern and Univan agreed to merge and V. Group bought UK-based Bibby Ship Management in March. In April, Germany’s Rickmers Holding and ER Capital also announced that they were exploring the possibility of merging their ship management operations but have now dropped these plans.
According to Jebsen, who is the CEO of Jebsens – one of the oldest family-run shipping companies, a key aim for InterManager in the months ahead is to grow its membership.
“InterManager’s main focus is on the human element and ensuring a safe environment for seafarers. Ship managers have been effective in doing this and the aim is to keep doing this going forward,” he said.
“Expanding our members and thereby adding more ships and seafarers will make us more effective for the industry as it will allow us to build on the position that we have today and increase our visibility even further.”
Navigating the ever-changing regulatory environment also presents further challenges.
“As ship managers, the great challenge is getting the right people with competence and focus. With more [regulatory] requirements coming from many directions, it is going to be more difficult. The aim is to improve the position for people onboard – InterManager strives to improve ship management standards – but regulatory requirements are not always co-ordinated and this creates obstacles,” said Jebsen.
The Maritime Labour Convention has improved conditions for many of those onboard but there is still much more work to be done, he said, adding that investing in skills development in the current economic environment is one of the biggest challenges for ship managers.
“Shipping is cyclical industry and very fragmented, making it difficult to maintain training at times. More consolidation and co-operation within the industry may be one way to improve this. The lack of consistency from some owners when it comes to training remains a real challenge for ship management.”
Read more from IHS Fairplay at http://fairplay.ihs.com/