Neatly bookending a key chapter in his career, Maritime CEO has the last interview with Jeremy Nixon ahead of Sunday’s official launch of Ocean Network Express (ONE), the merged Japanese container shipping giant.
Nixon’s first interview on being appointed ONE boss last July was also with Maritime CEO during which he outlined the philosophy of the new company as being “large enough to survive and yet still small enough to care”.
Inconceivable just five years ago, ONE is the Japanese solution to the rapidly consolidated picture facing container shipping today, bringing together the container divisions of rivals Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) and Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), under new headquarters in Singapore. NYK, as the company with the largest box fleet among the three, has a 38% stake in ONE, with K Line and MOL holding 31% stakes each in the new venture. With a combined fleet of 1.44m slots ONE will rank sixth in the world when it officially starts business on April 1, having been through many regulatory and organisational hoops over the past 12 months. The merger is expected to cut costs by a combined Y50bn ($440m) in ONE’s first fiscal year of operations.
“Yes, we are ready for launch,” a confident Nixon tells Maritime CEO in an exclusive interview from his Singapore headquarters. “The creation of ONE has been a challenging process, but our planning philosophy from the start has been to take a uniform and highly disciplined approach. We literally initially started with a clean piece of paper and have always tried to follow best practice wherever possible when building the company’s foundations.”
Nixon, a British national, worked for P&O Nedlloyd from 1994 through to when it was bought out by Maersk in 2005. After just under three years at Maersk as vice president he jumped ship to NYK in 2008, where he rose through the ranks to become CEO of NYK Line, based in Singapore, in 2012.
Regarding the business concept of the new magenta branded line, Nixon says two key attributes were common in all three past companies – customer service and process excellence.
“We have tried wherever possible to ensure that these core success factors are also embedded into the philosophy of the new company,” Nixon says.
As he inferred when interviewed by Maritime CEO last July, Nixon is content with ONE’s size, and is not out to chase those above him.
“Realistically we do not expect to go toe to toe with the top four in terms of pure scale and global market share,” he admits, before adding: “Where possible we will take a differentiated service approach, and ensure we have a strong focus on yield management, and innovation whilst also aiming to maintain a strong balance sheet.”
The ‘big enough to survive, but still small enough to care’ mantra espoused by Nixon – a 24-year veteran of the liner trades – should ensure ONE is nobody’s fool come April 1.