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Morten Arntzen: ‘Do the opposite of what the Norwegian investment banking world consensus position is’

He’s one of the most famous names in shipping, and one of our industry’s most amusing. Morten Arntzen, now in his sixties, shows no signs of slowing down, seen at many events around the globe, and remains adamant that however bad the markets might appear there are opportunities to be snaffled.

Arntzen’s shipping career dates back to 1979, best known for his 18 years as a ship financier at Chase Manhattan Bank, before taking on the poisoned chalice that was the presidency of Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG), an American tanker giant that was forced to seek Chapter 11 protection during his watch.

The OSG debacle however has not halted companies flocking to get his experience on their boards.

Among many appointments Arntzen, the shipping veteran, has been the executive chairman of Denmark’s Team Tankers for the last two years. Team Tankers has built up a position whereby it is now one of the largerst chemical tanker operators in the world. Arntzen was also tapped last year by Australia’s Macquarie to become the bank’s senior shipping industry advisor. Macquarie, noting the exit of many traditional European ship financiers, has been on a charge to fill the void. In unveiling Arntzen as its star shipping signing Macquarie noted his experience was “second to none”.

For such a senior figure within the industry Arntzen unsurprisingly wears many hats. Among other important roles keeping his busy is Castine Maritime, his own private shipping investment consultancy.

When it comes to investing in shipping, Arntzen quips, in keeping with this week’s strong Nor-Shipping theme, that he likes to make decisions that go against what Oslo bankers are spouting. Typically forthright, Arntzen tells Maritime CEO: “My investment guidance is to do the opposite of what the Norwegian investment banking world consensus position is, as it is almost always hyped and usually wrong.”

Shortly Arntzen will celebrate having been in shipping for 40 years. He feels that the worst is over from this current lengthy downturn and unlike many others the US citizen reckons shipping cycles will likely return to more normal lengths.

“I think shipping cycles will be longer now,” he says, citing the “enormous” and continuing contraction in the bank markets for shipping finance as well as the poor experience of the private equity world with shipping, particularly with investments in newbuilding programs and finally the reduction in yard capacity. Neverthelss, Arntzen is cautious, concluding by saying the tanker markets will be soft for the next 12 -18 months, primarily because of the excess supply of ships coming into the market, notably in the large crude tanker segments, the deepsea stainless steel chemical tanker segment and the LR1 and LR2 markets.

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