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Poten: Will shipowning structures come full circle?

New York: Michael Tusiani is in a reflective mood when Maritime CEO meets up. The chairman of US brokers Poten & Partners has been involved in the shipping industry for nearly 45 years and he is keen to discuss how patterns are changing – and indeed not changing – in the sector he so clearly loves.

Shipowning today is a far cry from when he started out in the business, he relates.

The advent of public money and other sources of capital such as private equity and hedge funds has changed the landscape because of the effective separation of the ownership of physical assets from their day-to-day operations.

“It seems that access to public financing has outweighed the desire for secrecy which the traditional shipowner valued so highly,” he notes.

The primary focus of these public shipping companies, he reckons, is to demonstrate quarterly growth.

“As there is a greater pressure to produce quicker returns, operational integrity could be potentially compromised,” he warns.

Most of today’s new market entrants do not see the need to build integrated organisations to serve customers as a priority and to protect one’s owned assets, Tusiani, the author of three books related to shipping, tells Maritime CEO readers.

More third party managers are being employed to handle owners’ technical and commercial affairs. Currently, approximately one-third of the world’s tanker fleet is under some kind of third-party management, according to the Poten boss.

“It is interesting to note that when I started in the business, I recall OSG as being one of the few public shipping entities. Today we have thirty just in the tanker sector alone. Given this shift, it now appears that most shipowners have put making short term profit above all else. The long term doesn’t seem to matter particularly when capital markets are robust,” Tusiani says.

However, Tusiani does not believe that this new shipping structure — where ownership is separated from commercial and technical management – will last for a long time.

“As soon as there is a major problem, charterers will not stand for them,” he predicts.

Tusiani, one of the best known names in tanker shipping, has been with Poten since 1973. He stepped down as ceo last year, but remains chairman of the brokerage. Prior to Poten, Tusiani was an economist with Naess Shipping.  [28/05/14]


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