Unlike many of his peers at the helm of enormously large shipmanagers Captain Norbert Aschmann questions just how much savings can be made from ongoing consolidation seen within the sector. The CEO of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement argues that the benefits reaped from managing more than 300 ships get smaller and smaller.
“I would not be surprised to see more mergers in shipmanagement,” he tells Maritime CEO in an exclusive interview, “but I doubt they will all lead to notable improvements in efficiency.” The ex-seafarer says he finds it difficult to see where there is an upper limit in terms of managed fleet size that makes sense. “Is the limit, 300, 400 or 800? The benefits are smaller and smaller,” he reckons.
Having said that he does stress that size is important. “Smaller managers cannot offer the level of service to the ones that have 200 plus ships,” Aschmann maintains. Moreover, with the regulatory environment today ever more demanding in terms of compliance and reporting the BSM boss thinks this is harder on smaller managers.
BSM’s fleet today is fast approaching 600 – split 60% under full technical management and 40% under crew management. Such size makes it among the world’s largest names in shipmanagement however Aschmann is keen to highlight that BSM’s corporate set up these days still manages to offer owners a personalised experience.
“One area where we try to distinguish ourselves is the set up we have chosen,” Aschmann says, explaining, “We have deliberately chosen to be customer-focused, flexible and responsive and small in our front offices – our 10 shipmanagement offices around the world – while being as large and centralised as possible when it comes to our back office.”
BSM fully owns all its shipmanagement centres, its crewing centres and its training centres across the globe, something Aschmann believes is vital to ensure all staff are brought up to the levels of quality that BSM expects. It also helps in terms of crew retention.
Aschmann, who served at sea for almost a decade before moving ashore 24 years ago, is proud of BSM’s crew retention statistics but does admit concern about how shipping as a whole goes about attracting the next generation of seafarers.
“The attention shipping gets from the mainstream media is not supportive,” Aschmann says, citing stories of ships grounding or exploding, piracy, and criminalisation of seafarers as examples.
At BSM, there is a targeted approach to ensure seafarers have opportunities to rise through the BSM ranks ashore. Aschmann uses his own story from master mariner to CEO as an example to his own staff.
BSM continues to expand its diverse offerings including green recycling, newbuilding and conversion supervision and onboard catering. In terms of growth, Aschmann reveals that geographically the Cyprus-headquartered firm is seeing much new business out of Central and North America and Asia while sectorally offshore and LNG are offering exciting new growth potential.
Aschmann took the reins at BSM at the start of 2015, having been deputy CEO for 15 months prior to that. He previously held senior management positions at Hanseatic Shipping and ER Schiffahrt.