Penfield survives a stormy start to mark fifth birthday

Penfield Marine never sought to take the shipping world by storm, but it almost happened five years ago when Hurricane Sandy nearly washed away the fledgling company’s offices in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The commercial management outfit has persevered with a strategy of slow, steady growth, and that was borne out when it celebrated its fifth anniversary with an open house last week.

Penfield, as partners Tim Brennan and Eric Haughn explain, was destined to outgrow that first office anyway, and has found larger space near the train station in the Southport section of Fairfield to fit a workforce that has grown to 20.

The yard outside those offices was the venue for an informal party — two food trucks served up pizza and Venezuelan delights — with guests from as far away as Greece, Sweden and Germany.

Brennan and Haughn took time out to brief TradeWinds on Penfield’s further growth over recent months. After launching with a pool in panamax tankers, the company has made aframaxes its more recent focus.

It chartered in the first units two years ago, started a pool last year and is now up to seven tankers and four partners. Germany’s Salamon, which is also a member of Penfield’s panamax pool, became the first external partner with its 105,800-dwt Iblea (built 2003).

“We’re trying to do with the aframax pool what we’ve done on the panamax side,” Brennan said.

“We’re trading exclusively dirty on the aframax side and our focus is in the West. We find it’s a good way to maximise our relationships with our existing customers, as they’re primarily the same as on the panamax side.

Synergy between pools

“Our belief is that there’s synergy between the pools and they’ll benefit one another, which is why we went into afras as opposed to [long-range-one product tankers], which don’t offer the same synergy.”

On the panamax front, Penfield has wanted only modest growth and of late has added four vessels to bring the fleet to 27. The newest partner is Sea World Management, backed by Greece’s Laliotis family.

Navios Maritime Acquisition has added two ships in the past three months, bringing its complement to three. Others with that number include Paradise Navigation of Greece and Chemikalien Seetransport of Germany.

Founding members Penfield and Evolution Maritime have about one-third of the pool for their own accounts through time charters. “It aligns our interests with the pool partners,” Brennan said.

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