Hong Kong: Acknowledging both the cutthroat nature of shipmanagement and the dire financial situation facing many owners, Bjorn Hojgaard, ceo of Univan Ship Management, warned readers of Maritime CEO: “There is undoubtedly financial pressure in the industry that could have an adverse impact on safety, if companies or people are willing to take chances.” He quickly added: “In Univan, as in all the quality shipmanagement companies in the world, I am sure, it is not a problem. We know what the requirements are and we would rather walk away from business than accept unsafe practices in the running of our ships.”
Univan is currently technical manager to a fleet of 90 vessels divided in approximately equal shares between tankers, bulk carriers and containerships.
The company was founded by Captain Charles Vanderperre 40 years ago, who passed away in 2009, aged 87. Hojgaard, formerly with Thome Ship Management, moved to Univan a year ago, and has worked hard to modernise the shipmanager.
He said Univan now has some of the best statistics in the industry, especially in tanker management.
Univan has also been working hard to improve fuel efficiency across its fleet and now has what Hojgaard describes as a “very competitive offering” to its owners who, in turn, need to provide a better service to their charterers.
“Univan has in its company DNA to run ships cost effectively,” Hojgaard said, a reference perhaps to the founder Vanderperre’s legendary bean counting prowess. “We have been able to build on this in terms of energy management, which in recent years with high bunker and lube prices have made this critical for shipowners.
“In the coming years we will concentrate on further improving our service offering so as to help our customers – and their customers – weather the extraordinarily difficult markets that the shipping industry is now facing.”
On the markets, Hojgaard is not optimistic. While reckoning shipping might have hit the bottom, “it will stay this way for quite some time,” the Danish national warned.
“Shipping is hard hit by the 'new normal',” he explained, “where global GDP growth is perhaps only half of what it was in the years up to 2007. This is seriously affecting growth in global trade and a subsequent reduction in demand for additional tonnage in the years ahead. We need to see equilibrium in the demand/supply balance before a sustained recovery can take place. Once we do, however, it may well be the start of quite a spectacular upturn, perhaps from 2015 or 2016.”
Hojgaard, well known as a stickler for quality, has set the bar high in his ambitions for Univan.
“We aspire to be the best shipmanagement company in the world,” he told Maritime CEO. “This means,” he explained, “we are also very focused on working with the right customers. The most successful companies in shipping have specific practices and competencies that make them competitive over the long haul. These are the kind of companies we want to work with, because the more demanding our clients are, the better we become.” [05/02/13]