More Owner/Manager Partnerships on the Horizon
Monday, October 14, 2013
Chris Stone

Third party ship managers will become more in demand in the offshore sector as the health and safety and regulatory environment toughens up, according to one of the U.K.’s leading ship owners and ship managers.

“Like a lot of maritime sectors, it comes down to size and scale but if the regulatory situation becomes even more intensive then it will make sense for an owner to look to third party managers,” said Chris Stone, Chief Operating Officer of Bibby Ship Management.

Mr. Stone, who took over as company COO in July this year, said that ship owners were increasingly looking to work in partnership with their managers but they were also demanding quality as well as cost control. “The offshore sector is not unique in that managers need to work hard to ensure the managed vessels are in a strong position to benefit from any potential upturn in the market,” he said.

Mr. Stone has over 30 years’ worldwide experience in the maritime and logistics sector having worked in in Africa, the Middle East, India and most recently in Asia Pacific and Australasia. He joined Bibby Ship Management after spending 14 years with the Inchcape Shipping Services Group in various managerial roles. Including Regional Managing Director for the Middle East and India, Regional COO for the East Hemisphere (Middle East and Asia Pacific) and most recently Executive Vice President Asia Pacific and Australasia based in Singapore. He has a strong operational and commercial track record which has translated into sustained business growth and profitability in his previous roles.

Ship managers need to be able to make a profit for the work they undertake, he stressed, if they are to provide a continuity of service and invest in people and the services they provide. The business of ship management is all about partnership; by working together owners and managers can operate the vessels in the most cost-effective and efficient manner whilst also ensuring that the vessel meets all the demanding needs of the charterer and the regulator, he added.

The Bibby Line Group has significant experience and expertise in the offshore sector with owned as well as third party managed vessels in its fleet.

Mr. Stone added, “If you look at the number of vessels we have under management it is just over 50 and 30 of them are in the offshore sector; the same applies for our seafarers with over 50% of them currently working in the offshore sector in one form or another.”

Referring back to the need to add value, Chris Stone said the company’s training centers in India and the Ukraine were geared up to service the training needs of the offshore sector: “We run a variety of Dynamic Positioning courses which ensure our senior officers are highly trained for the task ahead,” he said.

“Utilizing the training centers allows us to train to a high standard a pool of seafarers and officers which can be utilized for our owned as well as third party managed vessels. We have invested another one million dollars in our Mumbai and Delhi centers to further boost the courses we teach and the facilities we have there.

“This investment is a clear commitment from Bibby. One of the challenges we have in the industry is a lack of qualified crew and senior officers, particularly in the offshore sectors. It is clearly useful if some of them have come through the Bibby training centers as we know who they are and the standard to which they have been trained.

Bibby’s unique selling point is that it is both an owner and a manager, “so we understand what an owner wants. Occasionally we come across a conflict of interest or what an owner perceives is a conflict but we argue strongly that the businesses are run totally independent”.

“The fact that Bibby is known for being dedicated to safety and quality is absolutely critical in our organization, and something we won’t compromise on. The key word again is partnership. We see ourselves as being an integral part of the ship owners operation rather than just being a supplier of a service to the owner.

“We fall into both owner and manager categories as we are able to offer a focused and personalized management service that our owners demand and in turn drive the efficiencies they need whilst also understanding what it is like to be an owner. Bibby Line is an owner itself and we fully understand and appreciate the requirements from both sides of the operating fence.

Is the industry moving towards greater partnership and is ship management consolidation back on the horizon? Mr. Stone said, “Times are tough for the owner and for the ship manager and it just makes sense to have a strategic partnership or partnerships. I don’t think it has to be a single partnership but it is the way forward and the manager can become an integral part of the ship owners’ business. Industry consolidation is unlikely in the short term as the market is quite fragmented and there will always be niche or boutique managers who concentrate on their areas of expertise whilst others will use their strength in depth to drive home the cost efficiencies that owners demand,” he said.

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