Singapore: This week has seen an anniversary of sorts in Singapore shipping. One year ago saw the creation of a new gas carrier operator following the merger of Epic Shipping Holdings and Pantheon. Since then, Epic Gas has been one of the most active owners in the Lion Republic, setting about a rapid expansion to make a big impact in the Pressurised LPG markets and a barrage of stories on our Southeast Asian sister site, SeaShip News.
The company has significant backers including Jefferies Capital Partners and DVB Shipping Intermodal Investment Management (SIIM) and a group of private shareholders. The company also has investment from one of the region’s canniest shipping players, former Pacific Basin boss, Chris Buttery who officially was appointed chairman along with another shipping veteran and board member Paul Over last summer. Both with others were the long standing partners, indeed original founders, in Epic.
In May last year Lars Vang Christensen joined the shipowner as CEO. Christensen has over 30 years of international shipping industry experience having joined Danish maritime conglomerate A.P. Moller – Maersk Group in 1979 both at sea and then with many years ashore. Among a glittering list of accolades in his career in shipping, Christensen was the chairman of the Danish Shipowners’ Association.
Including newbuilds Epic now controls a fleet of 36 Pressurised LPG ships. It has just announced the opening of a London office to strengthen its position in Europe where it now has a number of ships deployed. The UK office goes alongside Epic’s other overseas offices in Singapore (HQ), Tokyo, Hamburg and Manila.
With 8 ships ordered in Epic Gas’ first year of operations – all in Japan, Christensen smiles knowingly when asked by Maritime CEO on what is the company’s ideal fleet size. “Our loyal customers will decide that,” he replies, adding: “Our focus is our clients need for transportation and therefore on delivering quality services that meets their expectations.”
Since Epic was formed 12 months back, LPG has suddenly become a hot sector in shipping, but Christensen is not concerned.
“The growth,” he says, “is in many respects because owners like us are seeking replacement tonnage and there is all this talk about shale gas and predicted need for LPG Carriers – it is a combination of fleet renewal, a slow recovery of the world’s economy and hence the positive implications for Pressurised LPG Carriers”.
On future expansion plans, Christensen says, “If business allows we may place more orders,” noting that Epic Gas has a strong position in Asia, a growing one in Europe and lately in the Americas too.
By having the likes of legendary shipping names Chris Buttery and Paul Over onboard helps build the Epic brand, says the CEO. “They are strong names in east and west. It is all about being trustworthy and reliable.”
Of course, having such well known shipping entrepreneurs as Buttery and Over at the table – the pair founded, listed, sold and re-established Hong Kong’s Pacific Basin – would suggest a listing, probably in Singapore, but this is something Christensen will not be drawn on.
In terms of cash, the strong shareholder base, with New York’s Jefferies as the largest shareholder, has allowed Epic to handle capital by itself so far. Indeed, being in charge of every aspect of operations is a key part of the Epic credo. “It is all about quality operations, safety and reliability,” Christensen stresses once again, “Epic delivers everything in house from commercial, finance, technical management and crewing. In addition Epic Gas provides technical management for external owners”. And no doubt, given the names associated with the venture, profits too.
NEED TO KNOW: EPIC GAS
Founded a year ago in Singapore via the merger of Epic Shipping Holdings and Pantheon, Epic Gas is today one of the fastest growing pressurized LPG shipping lines in the world with 36 ships – including those on order – to its name. Jefferies Capital Partners and DVB Shipping Intermodal Investment Management are among key investors as is chairman, the legendary shipping figure, Chris Buttery, who founded Pacific Basin.