Digitalisation, market changes and the sulphur cap are boosting the role of shipmanagers in the container sector, says V.Ships
V.Ships has a growing box ship fleet at a time the container market copes with greater requirements placed on operators, such as the 2020 sulphur cap.
V.Ships (Germany) managing director Nils Aden tells Container Shipping & Trade “Our container fleet is extensive, ranging from small feeder vessels to large post-panamax container ships. These are managed globally through several different offices, but there is a specific focus on container ships from Hamburg.”
He singles out key factors for shipmanagers’ growth within the container ship sector. “I see two key reasons; the container market is undergoing changes and we see different structural changes. One reason is local to Hamburg and Germany, where the old KG market has collapsed. Therefore, some smaller owners and managers are leaving the market and new players are entering this market as owners. We see a shift from smaller inhouse managed companies to professional shipmanagers. It is a growing market and we also see a growing market for professional shipmanagement companies to enter this market on a larger scale.
“Besides such structural changes, we also see a move towards a very professionalised approach to these markets, which is just a smaller part of the global logistics chain. If we look at final clients, whether they are final clients of liner companies or the liner companies themselves, they require a highly professional service delivery and we are part of that service delivery. We see a growing market here because this is where we can enter as a service.”
Against this backdrop, Mr Aden says service requirements from liner companies are increasing due to more regulations and requirements, including the 2020 sulphur cap. “We constantly look at 2020 as there are a huge number of details that need to be taken care of. If we look at how many different requirements are placed on the manager of a small fleet, it is difficult to cope with, so it is better to use a large player like us with those capacities inhouse. That is a global reason for a large ship manager to play a leading role in servicing liner companies.”
Singling out the 2020 sulphur cap and its impact on shipmanagers and the container ship sector, he says V.Ships has a dedicated team dealing with this. He says “We are a service provider and that means we give guidance to owners on specific vessels. We provide a key service, assisting owners installing scrubbers or making vessels ready for a new fuel. We serve both alternatives. Having many clients, we have vast experience of preparing for 2020 and we have a wide range of know-how available to service both options very well.”
Speaking about the challenge of expected higher fuel prices come 2020, Mr Aden says “We expect fuel prices to rise especially on ships without scrubbers. This means fuel consumption comes into focus which is a trend we are dealing with. We deliver a service to monitor, control and minimise fuel consumption so clients get what they expect from a ship when they charter it. This is a trend for the next few months and probably years.”
He underlines another key trend as being digitalisation, which V.Ships is very focused on. “It is really on the agenda for shipowners and as shipmanagers we have invested quite heavily in this, as part of our ShipSure solution.”
This digital solution covers all services offered by V.Ships. Mr Aden says it has been upgraded significantly and can now interface with clients.
“This is a huge step forward as is not just tailor-made for our needs but is consistent for all the ships we manage. It is a major step forward to get away from smaller, island-like solutions, and have one key tool. It covers the whole shipmanagement business in one system and allows the client to interface and look into the ship and service we deliver in real-time. We can tailor the system to specific client requirements.”
He adds that it boosts transparency and consistency of service, especially as it covers both ship and shore.
He is keen to note that while this is a very important step within digitalisation, the investment is not a one-off but will continue. “ShipSure is a product that is never completed as digitalisation is developing fast. This is an ongoing journey, continually enhanced with new modules and interfaces.”
Summing up his thoughts about the growing role of shipmanagement within the container ship sector, he says “I see a structural change in the industry and a trend to further professionalisation and consolidation in terms of overall service delivery expected from clients and owners globally. I see further development ranging from enhanced service deliveries and investment in digitalisation.
“A key requirement of service delivery is that it has to adapt to the changing environment. When it comes to developments like digitalisation, this has to be reflected in an agile way across the whole organisation.”
Indeed, Mr Aden says that a key focus for V.Ships is to deliver a first-class service in a consistent and agile way and adapt and drive ongoing developments. This will not stop with 2020 – there is more to come and it is very important for V.Ships to proactively deliver and guide owners and clients on these developments.
Snapshot CV: Nils Aden, V.Ships Germany
As managing director for V.Ships (Germany), Nils Aden is responsible for the company’s ship management activities. He joined V.Group on 1 January 2019 from Zeaborn Ship Management, where he was chief executive officer, with overall responsibility for ship management activities, 300 colleagues ashore and 4,250 at sea. He has also been an executive board member since 2013. He joined ER Schiffahrt in 2010 and since then has held a number of key roles, including senior project manager and managing director with responsibility for chartering, marine operations, customer relations and insurance. In March this year, Hamburg-based ER Schiffahrt merged with Rickmers Ship Management to create Zeaborn Ship Management.