Story by TOMAS KRISTIANSEN, SHIPPING WATCH:
The ship management industry has far from the same level of cooperation as its customers, the carriers, on green shipping. Now, OSM Thome reaches out to change that.
With a handful of major ship management companies and a myriad of small stakeholders, the industry is more familiar with intense competition than collaborating for a common good.
Now, in an interview with ShippingWatch, managing director at OSM Thome in Singapore, Simona Toma, reaches out to peers and competitors to raise the level of cooperation and promote sharing of industrial knowledge.
Norwegian-headquartered OSM Thome, which was created on a merger in 2023, is new in the global Top Five of ship managers and is still in a streamlining process with the clear goal of increasing efficiency and reduce costs.
”I think, in the long term, we would all, as an industry as such, benefit if we actually work together in areas where we can do so. Sharing lessons learned, sharing trials and experiences, collaborating on strategic projects to improve the overall safety of our workforce, just to name a few,” she says: ”You don’t see that much right now. You can see the carriers, the ship owners, they have started to work together in different areas. But you don’t see that much in the ship management sector yet.”
Must master a lot
Another obvious field to unleash in a joint effort is the green transition which is going to have a notable impact on the industry both in terms of technical as well as crew management.
The introduction of greenhouse gas emission rules by the IMO and EU are just recent examples of how managers must master an increasing number of new skills.
”It could be initiatives such as exploring the green transition from traditional to new fuels. How do we build the path to create the competencies for the future? That is a journey we are all in,” says Simona Toma.
She is of the opinion that a common understanding between the stakeholders already exists, which in itself could form a sound basis for joint initiatives going forward – something that was confirmed during the tough years when Covid-19 affected seafarers, shipping companies, and ship managers.
”I think one of the points in time when it became very clear to all of us was during the pandemic. We became more aware it was not us against each other, but us together. That could be a key catalyst for us to start the dialog. Some of the obvious challenges today are CII, EEXI and ETS.,” says Simona Toma, referring to the latest IMO and EU rules.
Becomes more difficult
Another challenge is the necessary retraining of seafarers on the back of the green transition and introduction of new fuels.
Anglo-Eastern chief executive Bjørn Højgaard recently told ShippingWatch that nearly all of the company’s close to 30.000 seafarers will need re-training over the next ten years to still be able to handle ships and fuels.
”There is no doubt that it becomes more difficult to operate a vessel. Right now, there are 74 ships on order which Anglo-Eastern is expected to manage upon delivery. The orderbook is a blend of LNG, ammonia ready, ammonia propelled, methanol, hydrogen combustion and ships powered by different kinds of batteries which the crews must be able to handle,” he said.
However, according to Simona Toma there are fundamental business areas which she cannot not see as part of a collaborative arrangement between competing companies and which also “brews healthy competition which pushes the industry to be more innovative.”
That is, above all, areas like the composition of the vessel pools and the skills of the seafarers, as they represent defining factors of each company.
Must find a balance
”It is no easy task to find the balance between collaboration and healthy competition, but if done properly, the ship management industry may make significant contributions to the green transition,” she argues.
When ShippingWatch interviewed Simona Toma in November last year she explained that the aim of the new combined entity is, among other things, to reap the benefits of synergy from the merger.
”There is an element of excess resources in the process, in work streams, and that, obviously, had to be addressed. That is a responsibility we have to the business. If you don’t address such things in the process of a merger, you are not able to keep your cost efficiencies as such. Another element is, obviously, addressing duplicative functions,” she explained.