Bremen: It’s 25 years since captain and business graduate Peter Harren (pictured, right) purchased his first ship – the multipurpose carrier ORION III. Since then Harren & Partner has grown and diversified dramatically. The German owner now boasts a fleet of 52 vessels, and is also a third party manager as well as into logistics and ship financing.
The fleet currently consists of 52 owned or managed ships. It comprises 12 product and chemical tankers, five multipurpose and fifteen heavylift ships, two offshore construction vessels and four dock ships, eleven container feeders as well as three bulk carriers.
“Today, we have no orderbook with any yard but we do have some plans for newbuildings,” says Dr Martin Harren, managing director (pictured, left) and son of the group’s founder. “The realisation of these plans is just a question of market timing and financing opportunities,” he adds.
Diversification has been the way Harren & Partner has always navigated the ebbs and flows of the shipping markets. So while one sector might be performing poorly, such as heavylift, the tanker side is propping the figures up.
“The diversification of our fleet has proven to be a key success factor for stabilisation throughout the crisis years as well as continuous steady growth,” Harren explains.
Turning to the markets, Harren admits times have been tough in one of the group’s principle sectors. “Today, the heavylift markets suffer from an oversupply of available tonnage,” Harren says. “Big projects in infrastructure or the oil extracting business came forth slower than expected and even highly specialized ships ended up competing for classic breakbulk,” he relates.
As a result Harren’s heavylift focus lies on consolidation rather than adding new ships. A first step in this direction has been the establishment this May of the BHS Pool Weser-Ems together with Briese Schiffahrt. This pool consists of 15 units for the time being and will be managed by BBC Chartering and Combi Lift.
“Being asked to carry out third party management for a number of business clients is an ever-growing side of the business. This has latterly seen the group also take on management of further vessels in different segments. A new office in Mexico will look after the fleet’s ships employed in that region.”
Another successful niche the group has pursued has been with the creation 15 years ago of Caribbean Feeder Services (CFS).
The success of CFS relies on the ability to identify a demand and a potential market and then offering a reliable and efficient service. For centuries, shipping companies provided connections between world ports into the Caribbean and its rim countries. They serviced a number of ports along their trade routes, however, only at their convenience. Their main emphasis was the connection from the Far East, Europe, South America, and North America to specific countries in the Caribbean. Little consideration was given to the fact that there was trade and transport needed from one regional port and country to the next. This situation became further exasperated when the vessels of these global carriers became larger and they began to cancel port calls, discharging their containers at various Caribbean and Central American hubs to be transhipped to their final destinations. This caused many disruptions in various markets thus creating the need for regional carrier support.
“With scheduled connections between select ports, CFS supplied this support based on fairness towards its contract partners and local knowledge of the Caribbean,” Harren says, while acknowledging the CFS model could be replicated elsewhere.
“The model could suit any region with a comparable initial situation,” he says, noting: “Today’s development towards ever larger containerships in the liner trades might even further the demand of regular feeder services.” However, the prudent German owner then says the existing pressure on earnings for all types of container vessels through an oversupply of tonnage does not help to promote the establishment of a new service at the moment.
“In the end, it always comes down to the right judgment and a solid calculation,” Harren says.
It is this ability to invest across diverse markets that has served the Bremen company well in its first 25 years, and will do so in the future.
“We have the capability to adapt quickly to new situations and new tasks,” Harren says in concluding. “We have been using this ability building up our diversified fleet and see it as our most valuable asset in facing the rapidly changing shipping business. Ultimately there will always be interesting niches. When the right conditions come together, we will be there.” [05/08/14]