AsiaMaritime CEO

Mercmarine: Sri Lanka’s top name in shipping


Colombo: It’s hard to know where to begin with when profiling the Mercmarine Group. Tracing its roots back to the 1917-founded German KG firm Reederei Eugen Friederich it is now based in Sri Lanka as an owner, manager and training company.
The Mercmarine Group of Companies is a newly created umbrella brand that unites the identities of four associated companies including the original KG fund.
“The umbrella brand allows us to show the whole breadth of our organisation as a maritime service provider,” explains ceo Thomas Kriwat, who took over the company from his father in 2006.
“Part of our strategy,” he elaborates, “is becoming more attractive for partners who look at a wide range of shipping expertise within one organisation. That’s why we introduced our new brand and adopted a more corporate structure.”
Reederei Eugen Friederich saw the potential of the upcoming Asian markets early and established a German-Sri Lankan joint venture in 1981.
The Mercantile Shipping Company is Sri Lanka’s leading shipowning company and the only one of its kind to be listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange.
The company underwent a complete renewal of its fleet in 2009/10. It was its first newbuilding scheme since the early 1970s. The new fleet consists of four 12,500 dwt MPVs plus two 7,800 dwt MPVs. Its largest vessel is a 1350 teu boxship.
“It successfully combines German shipping expertise with Sri Lanka’s long-standing experience in the maritime industry,” says Kriwat.
Mercantile Marine Management (MMM) is the flagship of the group established in 1996 to cater to the growing demand for trained and experienced crew. Situated in Colombo, MMM is the largest crew manager in Sri Lanka. Among its many credits MMM was the first company in Asia that was MLC 2006 certified by GL. As a crew manager MMM manages close to100 vessels and wants to increase that number to 300 by 2017.
Meanwhile, the Mercantile Seamen Training Institute (MSTI) was founded as the first private sector training center in 1986.
As if that was not enough Mercmarine started a joint venture last year with Hemas Holdings in Sri Lanka aiming at offshore support services, a sector Kriwat wants to become a regional leader in by 2020.
Kriwat has both praise and advice for the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to promote maritime.
“Sri Lanka has a unique strategic location to develop as a leading maritime hub,” he says, adding:  “The Sri Lankan government is presently doing more than any government before to improve the country’s infrastructure.”
Still, he cautions that the efforts are too “fragmented” and an overall maritime policy that looks beyond port infrastructure development is required.
“We need to look at setting up a competent, modern maritime authority, developing human resources and facilitating local coastal shipping,” Kriwat reckons.
On the markets Kriwat says the industry was “spoiled” by the good years it enjoyed from 2002 until 2008.
“It seems to have forgotten about the history of shipping economics,” he says. If you take a serious look back into the younger history of shipowning in particular, it has always been a rather difficult business.
“I don’t think it is wrong to say overall we had far more bad years than good years. However the last years were exceptional. I am certain we have hit the bottom. Unfortunately the markets seem to have stabilized on a fairly low level and I do not believe we will see speedy sustainable recovery.”  [07/06/13]

NEED TO KNOW:  Mercmarine Group

Mercantile Group has a history dating back to 1917 and is made up of four companies: Reederei Eugen Friederich, Mercantile Marine Management, Mercantile Shipping Company and the Mercantile Seamen Training Institute. Mercantile Shipping Company is Sri Lanka’s leading ship owning company and has four 12,500 dwt MPVs plus two 7,800 dwt MPVs. Thomas Kriwat became ceo in 2006 having started his professional career as a lawyer at Dr. Viniol, Rek & Partner in 1996.

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