Nord and Schulte merge fleet chartering operations

Two big German shipowners are combining the chartering arms of their container and dry-bulk fleets to handle an initial 64 ships and 23 newbuildings to be delivered in the next two years

Bernhard Schulte and Reederei Nord have set up a joint marketing and chartering operation based in Singapore and Hamburg to handle an initial fleet of 64 ships.

The new venture, O&S Chartering, will also take on 23 newbuildings being delivered to the two owners over the next two years.

The fleet will include at least 15 bulkers operating in the handysize, handymax and panamax sectors, and more than 60 containerships ranging in size from 1,160 teu to 9,000 teu. But the company may sell off some older ships during the next couple of years.

“Nord and Schulte will market from one central organisation a sizeable fleet that is financially sound and technically well maintained to perform charter contracts,” the owners said in a statement.

They add that O&S Chartering will strive to be a reliable partner to liner operators working all over the world, and that the company’s long-term strategy is to grow further with other vessel owners welcome to join.

The new venture goes into immediate operation in Hamburg, where the staff of the two companies started to co-operate this week, and a joint chartering office will be opened in the coming months.

A joint-venture company is also being set up in Singapore that will go live in the next few months with a number of staff seconded from the Schulte and Nord organisations. O&S will not need to hire new personnel or make any current staff redundant.

‘Enhanced co-operation’

Schulte and Nord, which are founding members of the Hamburg Tramp Owners’ Co-operation and joint managers of the O&S Pool for fixing ships of 1,300 teu to 1,700 teu from 1997 until last year, say the decision to merge their chartering operations follows on from that co-operation, which currently involves 14 vessels.

“Having a larger fleet to offer to clients is of value — particularly on the liner side,” said Schulte’s managing director of container and bulk chartering, John Freydag.

He adds that the company is also interested in looking at bulk markets outside of the feeder sizes it will initially handle.

The two groups also stress that they have previously worked together on various newbuilding projects since 1968.

Freydag plays down market comment that the merger represents another move towards increased co-operation by German shipowners in a period of poor markets, high costs and adverse financing conditions.

“Both Schulte and Nord are traditional shipowning companies, not just managers, and were not forced into this by any banks,” he told TradeWinds. “Nord and Schulte have very substantial and financially sound companies. As such, we have not been under any pressure from outside, nor is this move related to the present spot-market levels in bulk and containers.

‘More interest expected’

“But we do expect to attract considerable interest from banks and stakeholders in vessels that need a new home providing a reliable commercial management.”

Schulte Group, which owns 100 vessels and manages more than 650, was originally formed in 1883 as Schulte & Bruns.

Reederei Nord was set up in 1964 by the late Klaus Oldendorff and now has two main management companies, with the one in Hamburg focused on dry tonnage and another in Cyprus on tankers. Together, they currently manage a fleet of nearly 50 ships.

The chartering expansion in Singapore is a new commercial move for both companies aimed at bringing them closer to Asian customers, but Schulte has had a shipmanagement operation there since 1996 and also uses it as a shipowning base.

The companies say they started looking into the move well before the current situation in Cyprus developed and both will continue, as before, with their shipowning and management operations on the island.


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