Salvage advisor Brand Marine makes its mark on global scale

Hamburg-based technical consultancy is taking on bigger, London-based rivals for casualty and wreck-removal business

Brand Marine Consultants is a growing name in the marine-salvage consultancy business after taking on the challenge of breaking into a market dominated by a handful of London players.

It was established just over two years ago by wreck-removal expert and former Titan Salvage master Dennis Brand and business partner and former chief engineer Heiko Forster.

The company now has four offices in major shipping hubs around the world and has handled more than 130 projects and 28 salvage operations.

This year, Brand Marine appointed Peter Wolk from Hamburg-based Hanseatic Underwriters as its chief executive to take the company forward and increase its commercial profile.

But Wolk insists that, despite appearances, the company is not only reliant on the German market and work from his former company but has made inroads into the London insurance market.

The UK capital is the heart of marine-consultancy services and dominated by mega marine technical outfits such as London Offshore Consultants, British Maritime Technology, TMC Marine and Braemar Technical Services.

“We are open to work for everyone,” Wolk said. “The success of the company over the last three years has shown underwriters are looking for alternatives to the big ones [marine-consultancy outfits].”

Yet the marine-salvage market would appear to be in decline as improvements in safety have reduced the number of casualties. As a result, the salvage industry is consolidating through mergers and acquisitions. The question that Brand Marine's rivals pose is does the shipping industry need another technical consultancy company?

“We are quite successful and we are growing,” Wolk said. “You asked are we necessary as a company? Yes, I think people want to have a choice — they want a special team with unique experts and a mixture of skills and people. We get good feedback from the market."

On top of that, Wolk can point to increased regulation such as the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, which should result in greater wreck-removal work and increase the pressure for greater environmental protection on salvors and underwriters.

The results of that should be more work for technical consultancy companies.

But Wolk says Brand Marine is not seeking to compete on a low cost basis, as some have suggested. 

“I am not sure if we are cheap but our prices are reasonable — we are in Hamburg not in London, which also might be an advantage pricewise,” he said.

The company also has a foothold in the UK capital, Mumbai and Singapore through local partnerships, which have helped give Brand Marine the sort of presence it needs globally.

Added to that is wholly owned technical company Brand Engineering Solutions (BES), which has helped add to the company’s technical capability and meet the ever-increasing technical demands in the marine-salvage business.

Among its business lines, BES provides computer-generated animations to help with casualty litigation. 

“It is perfect for big casualty situations,” Wolk said. “If you have a movie, it just makes it easier to understand.”

Three of the Brand Marine team also have been appointed to the Lloyd's panel of special casualty representatives.

Brand Marine partner Forster points out that having a full range of consultancy services will help it compete. These range from salvage and wreck-removal services to expert witness, loss prevention, accident investigation and damage-assessment work.

Growth is still on the agenda and the company is looking at other regions to expand. But Wolk says there is no great rush to do so as it is equally as important to select the right people and the best location.