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Univan: Shipmanagement is “a very positive story”

Hong Kong: Shipmanagement has a bright future as owners look to outsource more and more, says Bjorn Hojgaard, ceo of Hong Kong’s Univan Ship Management.
“Shipmanagement overall is a very positive story,” says the Danish national. As an industry it has come of age, he says, stressing that it is no longer viewed as an inferior option.
A flurry of regulations in recent years from the IMO and others has definitely helped third party shipmanagers, says Hojgaard. Moreover, there’s plenty more complex operational issues owners will have to tussle with such as greenhouse gases, ecoships, retrofits – “all this plays towards third party management,” says Hojgaard.
The increasing commoditisation of shipping is also good news for the management firmament as owners seek safety and quality while also gaining economies of scale including purchasing power and hiring the right expertise.
As it stands roughly 20% of the 60,000 merchant ships afloat are under full technical third party. “There’s a lot more up for grabs,” says Hojgaard. Smaller owners should be attracted by the economies of scale a manager offers, while larger owners should use managers both as a benchmark and a buffer for operational issues.
Univan now has 106 ships on its books, up from 80 when Hojgaard took over the famous name in shipmanagement 30-odd months ago. The fleet is a mix of tankers, bulkers and boxships, though of late more tankers have been signed up.
“Tankers are easier to benchmark, and have higher requirements from charterers – and by doing this for the tanker fleet we apply the same approach to other ship types – raising the bar overall,” says Hojgaard.
Consolidation among shipmanagers is inevitable, he says, and Univan might be involved on the buying side. Remarkably there are around 600 managers worldwide, but the vast majority are very small. According to Univan data, around a third of all managed ships are managed by the top 20 managers. “It is still too fragmented,” says Hojgaard, noting that there are not many industries where there are 600 players of which the top 20 only control a third of the market.
“The bigger names will get the larger part of the growth in the future because they can leverage easier,” says Hojgaard, who worked for Singaporean manager Thome prior to taking on the Univan role.
“We will see mergers and acquisitions,” he says, observing how there have been relatively few over the last 40 years. “Many of the top 20 are looking at mergers and acquisitions as a serious option,” he concludes. [01/04/14]

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