Copenhagen: There’s just five months to go before Torben Skaanild relinquishes his time in one of the most well known roles in shipping. Remarkably, the 63-year-old’s time with the leading shipowning association BIMCO stretches back 32 years, albeit with considerable stints away in between. Now as the secretary general and ceo of the world’s largest shipowner gathering prepares to step down he tells Maritime CEO in a frank interview of the greatest threats facing the industry he has championed for so long.
The “overarching” threat facing the industry, Skaanild says, is the oversupply facing practically all segments eroding asset prices necessitating financial restructuring and the scarcity of risk capital.
Moreover, Skaanild warns, new technology focusing on higher energy and operational efficiency is being offered to owners at considerably reduced prices compared to just a few years back, which, he says, may tempt owners to resume ordering, adding more tonnage to an already oversupplied market.
“The good thing is that the orderbook is nearing normality, but newbuilding capacity is still considerably in excess of what is needed and this may induce shipyards to further reduce prices,” he warns.
The industry needs to find a solution to improve energy efficiency in the existing fleet, and the question is whether there is capital and shipyard know-how around to do so, the BIMCO boss suggests.
Then there is the ever-increasing environmental agenda with new costly regulatory initiatives facing shipowners. “The least the industry needs now is additional cost,” notes Skaanild.
Skaanild’s early career saw him hold executive positions in Canada, the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong before returning to his native Denmark to join BIMCO in 1981 as deputy secretary general. In 1984 he was appointed secretary general, and left in 1991 to join Dr Helmut Sohmen and the World-Wide Shipping Group (now BW Group) in Hong Kong as a director.
On return from Hong Kong, he founded Skaanild and Partners, engaging in various advisory and investment projects including the turnaround and restructuring of small- to medium-sized companies.
In 2008, he returned to BIMCO in his old position as secretary general.
In his time Skaanild has had the “privilege” to work with many of the top names in the industry such as George Livanos, Helmut Sohmen, Atle Jebsen and Sir Ian Denholm. “They have all set a significant mark and been a great inspiration to me,” he admits.
So what’s next after a 45-year career in the shipping industry? “I certainly wish to stay in the business,” Skaanild says, “but only in non-executive positions and only a few of those.” He will continue for another two years as chairman of the World Maritime University executive board. He still has his own firm founded back in 1995 to manage too.
Not that Skaanild will be leaving BIMCO entirely straight away. Angus Frew, currently chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, will take over on October 1, a few months after the new BIMCO chairman, John Denholm is anointed (see story link below), but Skaanild, the BIMCO veteran, will continue in a support role for six months.
Skaanild’s advice to his successor in the Copenhagen hot seat: “Stay constructive and positive,” he says, “and be ready to adapt and tune into change and changes in the industry.” [21/05/13]
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