Tim Hartnoll venture acquires Bengal Tiger Line and Caribbean Feeder Service

Tim Hartnoll-led private equity venture HICO Investment Group has bought Bengal Tiger Line (BTL) as well as acquiring a majority shareholding in Caribbean Feeder Service in the latest chapter of container consolidation.

No price has been revealed for the acquisitions by the Hartnoll family, who also own feeder giant X-Press Feeders.

BTL was acquired in 2018 by Singapore-based private equity firm CMIA Capital Partners from founding shareholders Schoeller Holdings and Transnaval Schiffahrt.

“The change of ownership from CMIA Capital Partners to HICO will not see any change in the management structure of Bengal Tiger Line, and the day-to-day business will remain as status quo and will continue without any form of disruption. This acquisition is in line with HICO’s interests in the focus verticals of hospitality, technology and transportation. HICO will look to build value for Bengal Tiger Line through the knowledge, network, skills and culture of the businesses under the HICO umbrella,” an update on the BTL site states.

“The acquisition is not connected to X-Press Feeders, as HICO Investment Group is an independent entity involved in several other business verticals besides transportation. BTL remains a standalone common feeder retaining its existing management structure and services,” Bill Smart, BTL’s chief executive, told Splash today.

BTL was incorporated in Hamburg in 1986 and transferred its registry and headquarters to Singapore in 2009. The company mainly operates around the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and the Arabian Gulf, with chartered vessels. According to Alphaliner data, BTL’s operated capacity today is just above 10,000 teu, its six ships giving it a ranking of 70th among the top 100 liner operators.

Caribbean Feeder Service (CFS), meanwhile, is listed by Alphaliner as the world’s 53rd largest liner with 16 ships and a total operating capacity of just over 16,000 slots. The Caribbean acquisition was agreed with Pérez y Cía Group, who will continue to be a key shareholder. CFS, founded in 1999, is the largest independent feeder operator serving the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. Pérez y Cía Group took over the company four years ago.

“Neutrality keeps on being a key aspect of CFS as a regional feeder. This neutrality strengthens the carrier’s networks in the region and contributes to the development of the logistic networks and economic growth of the Caribbean Region,” CFS stressed in an update on its site, echoing the BTL acquisition, whereby the brands will remain separate from other Hartnoll firms.

HICO was formed by the Hartnoll family last year. Other interests include Britoil Offshore Services and UK-based atomic propulsion specialist CORE POWER. The Hartnolls also run X-Press Feeders, the world’s 17th largest liner, as part of their Sea Consortium empire.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Congratulations to @Xpress Feeders for the strategic move in acquiring @BENGAL TIGER LINE and @CARIBBEAN FEEDER SERVICES and thereby firmly cement yourselves into the Mega bracket with just a single contender for the Common Carrier Feeder crown. And an equal salute to @Tim Hartnoll and the team, who all must be extremely proud, as I am sure his late father would have been.

    This has put new interest in the trade, and I am sure there will be a great many smaller, niche operators that would make a good addition too.

    History be told, the late 80’s and the 90’s saw fierce competition between the brands, so much so that there were exclusivity or exclusions from one or the other. Yet, Don Corleone’s “its business” always prevailed.

    The timing however is interesting because simple shipping minds would be surfing the crest of this spectacular period – so what is it that CMIA Capital Partners Pte. Ltd. are reading in to the market and is this a perfectly times exit ?

    Conversely, is Xpress Feeders seeing a strong couple of years for feeders as mainliners get bigger and the outport traffic remains strong ? The price tag for both these operators could not have been cheap.

    I wish you all full-ships, Gentlemen, and am so glad that BTL will continue to wear their stipes and retain the brand.

    #acquisition #consolidation #Commoncarrierfeeders #lines #containershipping @Bill Smart @Alex Hartnoll

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