German shipping legend Bertram Rickmers has died.
Domestic media reports indicate that the 71-year-old succumbed to injuries incurred when he fell down a flight of stairs at his villa during his wife Franziska’s 60th birthday celebrations.
Employees at his Asian Spirit Steamship Co (ASSC) were notified of his death on Monday evening by managing director Frank Bunte, according to Das Bild newspaper.
Rickmers is survived by his wife, daughters Anna Sophie and Lara, son Rickmer Clasen and five grandchildren.
The Hamburg-based owner hailed from one of Germany’s most illustrious shipping dynasties, whose history stretched back to 1934.
He entered the business in the early 1980s, when the family’s shipping empire had fallen on hard times. The shipyard had filed for insolvency and the liner service had been sold.
“I inherited nothing. Zero. We had to start again,” he told TW+, the TradeWinds magazine, in 2019.
Within a few years, he and his brother Erck had bought back Rickmers-Linie from Hapag-Lloyd and built up a fleet of more than 100 container ships and 30 multipurpose vessels.
The brothers split up in the late 1990s, with Bertram remaining head of Rickmers Holding.
In June 2017, the mainstay of his shipping operations went belly up again. Rickmers Holding filed for insolvency with €700m ($755m today) of debt on a fleet of mainly KG-owned (limited partnership) vessels.
That was a body blow to the empire, but not a killer one.
“The insolvency of Rickmers Holding was a substantial shadow over my life,” Rickmers admitted. “But I was not personally liable. And even at that time, it was not any more the main part of our business activities.”
Despite this setback, Rickmers quickly staged a comeback with ASSC, which he launched together with son Rickmer Clasen — the sixth generation of the family to join the shipping business — who was put in the driver’s seat.
The company has since grown with newbuildings and secondhand purchases.
The S&P Global International Ships Register lists ASSC with a fleet of six modern feedermax container ships and a platform supply vessel.
An additional four 1,162-teu boxships are on order in China and due for delivery this year.