Overview of the company history
ABC Maritime AG, Nyon, Switzerland - on the shore of Lake Geneva - was founded in 1982 by Hans Tanner. The company developed within three decades from very small beginnings into a medium sized shipping company with today 32 ships and a staff of over 500 persons.
The first years ABC Maritime as very small company kept itself alive with various services for the shipping industry. The first ship in management, the freighter DEO JUVANTE was only taken over in October 1986, followed in November of same year by the ESCOUMINS. Unfortunately this management lasted not for very long. After the prices for second-hand ships increased considerably, the two ships were sold by their owners already in 1987.
In the same year the first offshore vessel, the RANDA was taken over in West Africa, followed shortly by two other small ships. Since, this activity was persued and extended, it forms today one of the main stays of the company.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union ABC Maritime AG saw the opportunity to expand. At the beginning Soviet vessels from the Republic of Georgia were repaired under the supervision of ABC superintendents, but already in November 1994 the recently founded Anglo-Georgian Shipping Company in London established ABC as Technical Managers and in 1995 about 24 Georgian vessels were under technical management from the Nyon office.
Four years later, all the Georgian vessels were transferred to new management companies in Cyprus. Fortunately after a short period of time new projects were found, mainly in the product tankers and in the offshore industry sector. These activities were continued and today are the two main stays of the company's business.
In 2005 Bayside Services S.A. was integrated into the ABC Group, a company specializing in various shipping related services, as sale & purchase brokerage, ship finance, insurances and maritime law. In addition to the technical and commercial management of vessels ABC Maritime AG had now acquired the ability to offer various ancillary services to the shipping industry.
In 2008 the original name ABC Maritime AG was rebranded to become the present and modernized ABCmaritime.
In September 2012 ABCmaritime celebrated its 30 years anniversary. From small beginning the company has developed into a medium sized enterprise with approximately 50 employees in the head office in Nyon, about 20 employees abroad and around 500 seamen employed on board of 32 vessels. The young and modern fleet consists of 16 offshore vessels, 12 tankers and 4 bulk carriers, all of various tonnage perfectly adapted to their respective markets.
2. The early years
In September 2012 ABCmaritime celebrated its 30 year anniversary. An inspiring opportunity for a cavalcade of people, ships and events.
ABC Maritime AG, Nyon, Switzerland was founded in May 1982 by Hans Tanner from Aadorf TG (in the north eastern part of Switzerland), who after loosing his job following a company reorganisation by his French/Swiss employer in Geneva, decided to set-up his own company. Initially the firm operated as a sole proprietorship, but on 29.09.1983 it was converted into a joint-stock company. Hans Tanner, a marine engineer by profession, began his maritime career in 1963 as a wiper on a vessel belonging to Suisse-Atlantique and following engineering studies worked his way from a junior engineer to become chief engineer and subsequently superintendent engineer. The company's first office was set up in an apartment behind the railway station in Nyon, where one of the first employees was, Hans-Peter Schwab, who from the beginning worked on a freelance basis. Later he became permanently engaged by the company. Initially Schwab had to look after many different things ranging from purchasing, technical matters to operation and chartering. Later on he was made responsible for the company's offshore interests and for about 10 years until his retirement in 2010 he was project manager responsible for new projects. In March 1991 Ursula Steinhoff joined the company. Today Mrs Steinhoff manages the chartering and operation of the company's offshore vessels. Also in 1991 a few months later, Josef Lötscher joined the company and became first dedicated accountant also entrusted with organisational matters.
The first years were very difficult. The two men firm kept itself in business with many different shipping services, such as dry dockings, repairs, conversions, spare part trade, inspections, finance and sale & purchase of ships. The early eighties brought also a deep crises in shipping, which led banks and shipping companies alike into deep difficulties or even into bankruptcy. Fortunately for ABC Maritime AG the crisis also provided new opportunities and work, especially with ship's condition surveys, valuations and sale of vessels. Sellers of this tonnage were mainly banks and buyers often state owned shipping companies on the Balkans.
The first ship received into technical management in October 1986 was the freighter DEO JUVANTE, followed in November of same year by the ESCOUMINS. Both ships were owned by a French company. Unfortunately this management did not last for long. After the ship's prices rose considerably, the owners sold the vessels again, ESCOUMINS was handed-over already in July 1987, the DEO JUVANTE left in November 1987.
The involvement in the offshore shipping was not part of the company's strategy but came about rather by chance. In 1986 a French bank was looking for a shipping company, who could take over the small offshore ship BITURIK 1ER and run it profitably again. The vessel suffered from financial and technical difficulties, as her owners were in disunion. In February 1987 the ship was taken into technical management and renamed RANDA. About 6 months later the commercial management was also transferred to ABC Maritime. In December 1988 the RANDA was refinanced and ABC Maritime AG became majority share holder.
Up to the present time ABC Maritime has limited offshore business to the West African coast in general the region from Angola in the south to the Ivory Coast in the north, with main activities concentrated in the area from Pointe Noire, in the Congo to Douala in the Cameroon. As a result of Switzerland's inherent linguistic diversity, ABC Maritime AG was well positioned to work with both francophone and anglophone companies. The vessels of ABC Maritime are mainly engaged for diving and maintenance works, transports and seismic surveys. The vessels serve the charterers as working platform and as accommodation for their personnel.
The first ABC Maritime owned ship was the diving barge DORIS 40-10, which been laid up in Port Gentil, Gabon for more than two years. She was owned by the bankrupt French company Doris Survey, Paris. The lending bank looked for a buyer and ABC Maritime AG was able to purchase the vessel at a reasonable price. The vessel was renamed DORA, overhauled and taken back into service. At the time the West African offshore market was very depressed with many ships laying at anchor in local ports without any work. In the summer of 1992 an opportunity presented itself to sell the vessel at a good price to the French Navy (Marine Nationale) as a buoy tender. On the explicit wish of the the new owner, the vessel was allowed to retain her original name and to this day the DORA is still sailing around the coast of the Bretagne.
Offshore vessel crews consisted normally of 8 to 9 men, the captains and chief engineers were usually French (many from Brittany) with the balance being made up by local seamen. Already at an early stage some Swiss nationals were employed on the offshore ships as engineers - among them, Martin Gehrig, Reinald Schneeberger and Theo Gamper. These engineers were working alone on board, only supported by a local oiler. Martin Gehrig was also repairing ships in Poland during 1991/92 and sailed on RANDA and THEO. Later he became a service engineer with Sulzer Brothers, today he lives in Canada. Reinald Schneeberger is now the company's representative in Port Gentil for many years. Theo Gamper sailed with Suisse-Outremer and was Chief Engineer with Metrofin, Zürich. He was Chief engineer on the RANDA and took over the DORA. Unfortunately he suffered a fatal accident shortly before Christmas 1988 during his vacation at home in Wattwil. Later Stefan Lautenbach, Beat Aschwanden, Klaus Berger, Max Herger and Friedrich Erismann sailed for years on these ships.
From the early French seamen Captain Jos Cabresin has to be mentioned, he sailed with ABC Maritime AG until his retirement. Then there were Chief Engineer Gabriel "Gabi" Allain, who kept for many years the RANDA in good condition and Christian Lefevre, today the most senior Captain of the offshore fleet.
In early 1990 a European businessman contacted ABC Maritime and proposed to purchase, repair and put into service a small, derelict coastal tanker laid-up in Warri, Nigeria. After the ship was surveyed in May 1990 she was towed to a shipyard in Lagos for repairs. The tanker was renamed LION and registered under the St. Vincent flag. However, the ship was never a big success in the local coastal shipping and was finally sold to Israel to be used as a bunker tanker. The LION arrived in the port of Haifa and was handed-over to her new owners in October 1996.
In June 1990 a small utility vessel SILVER FISH was purchased from FISH, Feronia International, Paris. The boat was most of the time idle on the roads of Port Gentil. She was renamed THEO in memory of the late chief engineer Theo Gamper. Almost miraculously the vessel seemed to be in high demand and was kept busy throughout her time with ABC. In August 2000 after ten years of successful service, the THEO was sold to a British controlled diving company in Nigeria.
In the autumn 1992 the first large supply vessel, the CLARA was purchased from O.I.L. and taken over in November in Cape Town. Her first working area was in Gabon. On 06.09.1995 she was sold to Rangk Ltd., Lagos, Nigeria, and commenced to work for Texaco Nigeria. However, after serious technical and managerial problems developed, ABC Maritime took back the technical and commercial management in February 1997 and managed the vessel until In November 2001 when she was definitively sold to a local construction company in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
On behalf of Nigerian businessmen two older crew boats were obtained from O.I.L. in December 1993. The boats, the IMC ALEX and the IMC THULA were docked, overhauled and then bareboat chartered to the Nigerian company. One boat went on time charter to Shell Nigeria and the other one to Texaco Nigeria.
3. The Georgians / Development of the company
The collapse of the Soviet Union proved to be a great opportunity for the development of ABC Maritime. In the wake of perestroika the various, state owned shipping companies in the former Soviet merchant navy looked for more freedom and independence. PBS Shipping in London, a company with which ABC Maritime AG had close business relations, founded in 1990 the Anglo-Georgian Shipping Company, London, a joint-venture with the Georgian Shipping Company in Batumi, in the Soviet Republic of Georgia on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.
The idea was to select various ships of the Georgian fleet, then to repair, reflag and bring them into the "joint venture" company Anglo-Georgian Shipping Company, London (AGS). ABC Maritime AG could secure various repair contracts. A total of seven ships, three bulk carriers and four product tankers were docked and repaired in Poland from January 1991 until July 1992. On completion of the repairs all these ships were handed over to a management company, as at the time, ABC Maritime AG was not in a position to manage these vessels. The officers and crew of the vessels were mainly Georgians from the region around Batumi (Adjaria).
In April 1991 AGS purchased the small freighter KOLKHIDA and in February 1992, after the ship suffered an engine break down and could not sail from Rouen anymore, ABC Maritime AG was called to get the ship moving again, in this way the management of this vessel commenced.
In the course of 1993 AGS suggested, that ABC Maritime AG should establish a management company to look after the technical aspects of the AGS-fleet. This company AG-Shipmanagement was established in 1993 and was fully integrated in the ABC Maritime organisation. The first three vessels entrusted already in December 1993 to the new company, were the three small tankers NINO, TAMAR and MEDEA. Now new personnel had to be engaged to cope with the new, additional tasks.
In 1994 a total of 19 ships and in 1995 another two ships were allocated to AG Shipmanagement for technical management. More office space was required and in November 1994 the offices were moved to the present address in the town centre of Nyon. The staff increased in short time from 5 persons to 27 persons.
Fritz Tischhauser, who sailed with Suisse Atlantique and Suisse-Outremer and worked as superintendent with Acomarit, was engaged as technical director, a position he kept until his retirement in 2009. At the same time, Thomas Gigon became the company's first purchase officer, today he is the head of the purchase department. Some other people should be mentioned, the Georgians Vlad Gordienko and Tengiz Sanikidze, the captains Edi Chiaureli and Walter Schneiter were operators (both captains are not with the company anymore).
The majority of the shares of Anglo Georgian Shipping Ltd. belonged to the now independent state of Georgia and the company was under control of different political groups in the country. Apparently serious differences within these groups led to the restructuring of the company. The Anglo Georgian Shipping company was dissolved and a new company the Georgian Shipping Company, London was founded. On extreme short notice AG Shipmanagement lost all ships per 06.02.1998, which were transferred to ship managers in Cyprus and Greece.
This "black Friday" naturally was a big shock and a severe setback for ABC Maritime AG and the first thought was to dismiss most people and drastically reduce the company staff. Fortunately Hans Tanner kept a cool head and prevented the dismissals. Therefore, a few months later sufficient personnel was available to start new projects, such as the Lukoil tankers and the Sonangol ships.
4. Dry cargo ships in management
Already in 1997 Plan Marine AG, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, a company trading with all kind of transport material, took up contact with ABC Maritime AG to manage and finally to dispose of ships from the former Soviet Union. On 01.12.1997 the two container ships MSC BUENOS AIRES and PEARCE were taken over and sold in September the following year to a Spanish shipping company. The Ro-Ro/Lo-Lo freighter HASTINGS followed on New Year 1998 and was sold in March 1999 to Greek buyers.
In April 1999 Suisse-Outremer AG in Zürich closed down its operations and the two remaining, last ships, the MARTIN P and the SEARHIN were given into management to ABC Maritime AG. The MARTIN P was the first ship under Swiss flag with ABC. Unfortunately only a short life span remained under Swiss flag. After she called Ambarli (Istanbul) as a port of refuge due to cargo shifting, she got caught around Christmas time 1999 in a severe storm, which tore her off her moorings and blew her onto the rocks of the breakwater, where she broke apart. As a total constructive loss she was deleted from the Swiss registry. However she was raised again and was repaired and put back into service by a Turkish ship owner. The SEARHIN was managed until her sale on 18.07.2002.
A technically ambitious assignment was carried out for a private British investor in 1999. The Panamax bulk carrier REALMAR, already laid-up ten years in Rio de Janeiro had to be taken back to service. This task was undertaken mostly by the crew under the supervision of a company superintendent and with limited financial resources. In February 2000 the REALMAR sailed from Rio de Janeiro and remained under ABC technical management until she was sold to Italian interests in February 2004.
5. Tanker Management
During 1998 a new, larger project was commenced, the construction and the technical management of five river/sea tankers for the Russian oil company Lukoil. The ships were built in Volgograd and on 16.03.1999 the first tanker, the KAMA RIVER came into service, followed by UKTHA RIVER, PECHORA RIVER and USA RIVER. In July 2001 the last unit, the KAZYM RIVER was taken over. These tankers transported mainly Russian crude oil from the Baltic ports to the the large consumers in Western Europe. In the autumn 2004 the operation of these ships was transferred to a Russian shipping company.
Also in 1998 the business relations with Sonangol, the state owned, Angolan oil company were established. The first product tankers which were taken over in this year were NGOL DANDE 1, ELISA, later renamed NGOL BENGO and the NGOL CUNENE a small bunker tanker. Later followed another 7 ships, among them an LPG-carrier and two large storage tankers. A small office was opened in Luanda to supervise and operate the fleet. In March 2009 the entire fleet was returned to Sonagol, which had new plans to operate their fleet (Sonangol owns also other ships, which never were under ABC Maritime management).
Peter Vogeler, who was serving many years as master on tankers of Metrofin, Zürich, headed the office in Luanda until to its closure. Then he was moved to Pointe Noire to care for the offshore vessels, working out of this harbour. Gion Wetten, a former captain with Massoel, Geneva joined the Luanda office in 2001. Today he is master on the RIO DEL REY in Cameroon.
Today a shipping company needs a complex and expensive organisation, if tankers are to be chartered to first class oil companies. Mainly for this reason various Turkish ship owners have concluded management contracts with ABC Maritime AG. The TROY already sails since 2005 with ABC and the CIMIL is managed since 2010 and therefore has received a contract as bunker tanker in Le Havre. Also the CT LONGFORD and CT CORK needed an accepted management company to obtain a time charter with Total, France.
In November 2007 the largest ship ever in the ABC-fleet was taken into management. The WESTAF, a tanker of 248'965 mt deadweight, 320 m long and with a draught of almost 20 m, was taken over in Greece. After docking and various modifications to suit her new role, she was used off the coast of Nigeria as a storage tanker. After financial difficulties of the Nigerian owners, the management was terminated in January 2011.
In 2009 and 2010 three tankers were built in the hearth of Russia for account of AET (American Eagle Tankers) Tankers, Singapore. These three tankers, the AET GALA, AET NISSA and the AET SANJAR initially were intended to trade in the Caspian Sea. However these plans were abandoned and the ships were used in the Mediterranean Sea. In May 2012 the ships were sold to a Russian company and the management was finished.
In February 1999 the two small utility boats IBENGA and N'GOUNIE were purchased. Both ships were well known along the coast of West Africa and therefore their names were retained. In March 2001 the two sister vessels NIARI and NYANGA were taken-over in bareboat charter and added to the ABC-fleet.
In autumn 2002 the seismic vessel WESTERN ATLAS was purchased. She was moved in November from her lay-up place in Southern Norway to Tallinn, Estonia for repairs and conversion into a maintenance vessel. The ship was renamed THEO and after her completion, she sailed in February 2003 for her new trading area in West Africa.
In March 2003 two large and powerful, new generation crew boats, the KLARA D and KRYSIA, were acquired in Singapore (today called FSIV, Fast Support & Intervention Vessel). These 50 m long aluminium boats have a total power of 9600 BHP and have a maximum speed of about 26 knots. The vessels can accommodate 62 passengers and carry 150 mt of deck cargo. The two boats sailed under their own power via the Seychell Islands and South Africa to their new operations area in West Africa.
In 2007 two modern supply ships were ordered from the Gelibolu Shipyard in Turkey and both delivered the following year. The SARDIS was welcomed in Pointe Noire, Congo in February 2008 and the SMYRNA arrived in Port Gentil, Gabon in May 2008.
A new line of business was started in 2005, the construction of work and accommodation barges for charter and use by major oil companies. After the oil fields were moved further out to the sea, time losses for the daily transport of personnel to and from the oil platforms became more time consuming and costly. By providing both accommodation and work platform facilities in close proximity to the production platforms, it was possible to reduce time consuming transfers and associated costs. The first such barge, ELISA, propelled by diesel-electric azipod-drives, was delivered from the Gelibolu Shipyard, Turkey during the summer of 2006. The ELISA was followed by the sister vessels RIO DEL REY in January 2009 and MAGDA in July 2009.
During 2007 ABC Maritime AG commenced negotiations with Otto Marine Ltd. in Singapore for the construction of large work/hotel barges. Contracts for the construction of three large, non-propelled work and accommodation barges were concluded. The OTTO 1 and OTTO 2 are now in service in West Africa. A further barge, OTTO 5 was delivered in 2012 and bare boat chartered to the Belgian shipping company Exmar Offshore N.V. Antwerp. Unlike OTTO 1 and 2, which were both towed to West Africa, the OTTO 5 was floated onto a semi-submersible vessel and transported to her destination in Nigeria.
As is customary in the offshore industry, ABC Maritime was obliged to have its own company representatives in the various ports, to attend to the vessels and to keep contact with clients. The first such representative was Reinald Schneeberger, who was sent to Port Gentil, Gabon in 1996 where he continues to represent the company. The company provides the representatives with a house, including office and storage space. Further the house has rooms for embarking or disembarking seamen or for the company superintendents. Other representatives look after the company interests in Douala (as from 2009) and in Pointe Noire, where Captain Peter Vogeler is ABCmaritime's representative.
At the time of writing, July 2013, the SARDIS, OTTO 1 and OTTO 2 are looked after from Port Gentil. The KLARA D, KRYSIA and ELISA are based in Pointe Noire, with the MAGDA, RIO DEL REY and SMYRNA operating out of Douala.
As is the case with the tanker fleet, TOTAL as one of the major clients of ABCmaritime is pushing to reduce the age limit of all its chartered vessels to 20 years. This compelled ABCmaritime to dispose of its older ships and to replace them with new and modern tonnage. The first of the older units sold to Nigerian interests were the IBENGA in 2007 and the NGOUNIE in 2008, the NYANGA and the NIARI were returned to their owners in 2010 and 2012 respectively. The RANDA, the first offshore vessel of the company and in service for 24 years was sold to Nigeria in March 2011. Three months later the THEO followed, she was purchased by a treasure diving company.
7. Offshore Management
From the early nineties, PANALPINA, Basel, another major ABC Maritime client, was experiencing difficulties in achieving timely delivery of express cargoes to its oil industry clients, especially when they were based in ports without easy access to international airport facilities. These ports were mainly Port Gentil, Pointe Noire and Soyo (Angola). Means were sought to ameliorate this situation and the "African Star Service" was set up, providing a weekly, combined air/sea service. ABC Maritime AG was asked to find a suitable vessel for the new service and to technically manage the vessel, with Panalpina, Basel taking care of the commercial side. An aluminium crew boat, the CORMORAN was purchased and taken over in Port Gentil in June 1992. She was also renamed AFRICAN STAR. The Senegalese crew serving under Captain Saliou Diouf agreed to continue their work with the new owners and today are employed on the FSIV vessels KLARA D and KRYSIA.
The "African Star Service" was a great success and until 1995 expanded so much, that the AFRICAN STAR became too small, thus to replace it, a larger boat was ordered in the USA. This specially designed and purpose built boat, the AFRICAN STAR 2 came into service in West Africa in January 1996. Subsequently the old AFRICAN STAR was made redundant and sold in February 1996.
In November 1995 the two landing crafts MS MERLIN and MS MERLIN II of Panalpina were taken into technical management.
Changes also take place in Africa. The airports on the coast improved considerably over the years and the AFRICAN STAR 2 became superfluous. As from May 2010 the boat worked on the spot market for ABCmaritime until she was sold to Nigerian buyers in September 2011.
In January 1998 the small diving vessel OCEAN DIVER IV of Oceaneering Nigeria was taken into technical management, but already in November 1999 she was laid-up again by her owners due to lack of work and later on she was sold.
In May 1998 a "joint venture" with Rangk Ltd. Lagos, Nigeria was established and the two FSIV (Fast Supply and Intervention Vessel) SIMONE K and SEAMARK were taken over in the same month from the builder's yard in Morgan City, La. USA. These water-jet driven aluminium boats were employed by Mobil Production Nigeria Ltd. (MPNL). They remained with ABC Maritime until August 2005, when they were returned to Rangk Ltd. Both vessels are reportedly still in service with this company.
Thanks to the good and friendly relations with the French company NTA, Paris an unusual technical management contract was secured in May 2000 for the AQUITAINE EXPLORER, a diving support vessel belonging to the French Navy. This vessel was classified as an auxiliary vessel and therefore remained under civilian regulation of the merchant marine. NTA was entrusted with the running of the vessel, but all technical aspects were subcontracted to ABC Maritime. The AQUITAINE EXPLORER was stationed in the navy base in Bayonne on the Atlantic coast and was employed mainly as a ROV mothership (ROV = Remote Operated Vehicle). Its main function was to search, locate and retrieve debris from rockets fired from a research centre near Bordeaux onto a firing range in the Bay of Biscay.
To replace the elderly MS MERLIN, Panalpina, Basel decided to order a new landing craft, and awarded the planning and supervision of the vessel's construction to ABC Maritime. The builder's contract was won by Gelibolu Shipyard SA. Gelibolu, Turkey. The first steel was cut in November 2003 and the MERLIN III entered service on 31.08.2004. This also marked the beginning of a close cooperation between ABCmaritime and the Turkish shipyard, a cooperation which is still ongoing today. Crewing arrangements for these landing crafts were awarded by Panalpina to a Philippine crew agent as early as 1990, when the first vessel was purchased. Some of the longest serving masters of these vessels are Capt. Roberto Bello and Capt. Emilio Tangkay whose service with the company began already in the early ninties.
In 2005 Panalpina Basel together with its affiliated companies in Baku, Azerbaijan and Almaty, Kazakhstan was awarded a large contract for a project in Atyrau, Kazakhstan on the banks of the Ural River. The prefabricated parts of a crude oil processing plant had to be transported from Russia to the building site near the Ural River. These parts were of large dimensions and weight, one of the largest items had a weight of about 650 tonnes. After various means of transport were evaluated, it was decided to build two special Ro-Ro barges, able to negotiate the mud banks and the low bridges of the Ural. These two barges the BELUGA and the BELUGA 2 were built in Volgograd and in Astrakhan, Russia. A specialist from ABC Maritime was sent to Panalpina, Atyrau to supervise and organise the commercial and technical operation of the barges. This support still continues today.
For the Swiss logistic enterprise Advanced Maritime Transports S.A. Nyon (AMT) ABC Maritime undertakes technical management of the landing craft AMT I and the new building AMT II which was delivered from the Gelibolu Shipyard in Turkey during January 2013. It is envisaged the new building AMT II will eventually relieve the ageing AMT I, possibly as early as the final months of 2013.
8. The own tankers
2001 marked yet another milestone, when the first product tankers for the account of the ABC Group were purchased and put into service. These tankers, the SAN NICOLA and the Swiss flag SAN BENEDETTO, were followed one year later by ST. MICHEL and in 2005 by the two sister vessels SAN BERNARDINO and SAN BENJAMINO both registered in Switzerland. In 2007 the RHONE was delivered from a shipyard in Istanbul. Three years later, in May 2010 the tanker SAN BEATO was completed in a South Korean shipyard and taken into service under Swiss flag.
These tankers work mainly in long time charter for the major oil companies, in this case predominantly for the French TOTAL. Since Total made bad headlines after the sinking of the tanker ERIKA, this charterer has imposed a strict age limit of 20 years on all its chartered tankers, as well as requiring extremely stringent safety and operational standards for all vessels on charter. For this reason and to be in full compliance with the new regime, the ABCmaritime tankers SAN NICOLAS, SAN BENEDETTO and ST. MICHEL all about 15 years of age, were sold off early during 2010 and 2011.
Today it has become very difficult to charter a tanker out to an oil company. In addition to being compliant with the legally required ISM (International Safety Management System) various other standards such as ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 demanded by the oil companies and other bodies have to be adhered to. The organisation of the ship owning company is being continuously monitored by independent auditors. To set up and maintain such an organisation has become a costly undertaking.
Recently two new tankers were taken-over in China, the SAN PADRE PIO on 23.04.2013 and the SAN PIETRO on 02.07.2013 respectively. Both ships fly the Swiss flag.
9. The company organisation
The first "office" was the flat of Hans Tanner, but a few month later a former appartment with four rooms was found on the Rue de la Morâche in Nyon. This office was just a few minutes walking distance from the railway station in Nyon.
In November 1994 the offices were moved into its present location, a large building on Rue Perdtemps 1, in the hearth of the town of Nyon. Now enough office space was available to expand and accommodate the staff to manage the large fleet of Georgian ships.
In 1998 Hans Tanner gave the operational management of the company to Marc Sturzenegger, a Swiss expat and lawyer, specialising in maritime law, relieving him from some of the day to day administrative and organizational duties. He took over the company as CEO (Chief Executive Officer). In 2004 followed Pedro Zürcher and from 2009 onwards the position of CEO is held by Daniel Wolf.
Chief financial officers were Josef Lötscher, Marc Poyet, Harry Bruder and Serge Meyer. Harry Bruder joined first Bayside Services in Nyon. He was an expert for ship finance with the banks CS und BCV and in 2009 he took over as CFO. Serge Meyer is also a financial expert and spent a large part of his career in leading positions with UBS and BCV. 2011 the ABC Maritime Group won him as CFO.
In 1999 Ruedi Meister ex Suisse-Outremer and Atlanship, La Tour de Peilz, joined the technical department together with Captain François Gehrig ex Norasia. Capt. Gehrig subsequently reorganized and modernized the the entire crew department to make it compliant with current ISM regulations.
Crewing wise the "Ocean Fleet" (tankers and dry cargo ships) relied on an external crewing office located in Odessa in the Ukraine. Unfortunately the quality standard of these seamen dropped constantly and reached finally an unacceptable level. Thus in January 2002 ABC Maritime established its own office in Odessa under the management of Captain Gian-Marco Kern, securing that personnel are fully compliant with international rules and regulations (ISM) and company identity.
In December 2004 the Suisse-Outremer Holding was founded to collect all vessels of the ABC Group under one umbrella.
In 2005 Bayside Services S.A. became integrated in the ABC Group. Bayside Services provide services for the shipping industry, such as sale & purchase of vessels, ship finance, insurance and law. Bayside Services was founded in 1991 in Geneva by the ship broker John Kellett and early the two companies had close business relations. Now ABC Maritime Group could offer a wide spectrum of maritime services.
In 2008 the original name ABC Maritime AG was rebranded to become the present and modernized ABCmaritime, according to new legislation introduced in Switzerland.
In spite of quick and efficient means of communications, it is important for a company to be where its clients are i.e. to be present locally. For this reason the firm Bayside Services Singapore was established in 2012. Today two brokers are employed, specialising in the offshore- and tanker market, doing sale & purchase, as well as chartering for ABCmaritime, but also for other clients.
Today we talk about the ABC Maritime Group, which comprises ABCmaritime (ship managers), Bayside Services SA (ship brokers) and Suisse Outremer SA (ship owners).
10. Transfer voyages
During the years several transfer voyages on behalf of clients were conducted. The ageing ex-Soviet tanker DEBRECENT was sailed in August 1999 from Las Palmas to Lagos, Nigeria and was delivered to her local owner.
An interesting project undertaken for the oil company of Antigua involved finding, purchasing and delivering a small product tanker to be used for intra-island transport of gasoline and diesel products. A vessel was found in the United Arab Emirates. Following conclusion of the sale the vessel was drydocked, renamed RUTH and sailed to Antigua. As a twist to this transfer, the Ukrainian master had become so enamoured of this Caribbean island state that he decided to stay and work for the oil company.
Other transfer voyages were the bulk carrier FELICITY 1, which was brought in autumn 2002 from the Black Sea to Pakistan. The landing craft TAHITI NUI IX, which sailed from Miri, Malaysia across the Pacific Ocean to Papeete on the island of Tahiti. In 2010 the aluminium crew boat C. RACER, was delivered from New Orleans to Lagos, Nigeria.
11. The Adfines ships
In 2007 a group of investors ordered four 19'000 mt dwt product tankers and four "handysize" bulk carriers from shipyards in the People's Republic of China. In 2011 these vessels could be purchased by the Adfines Group, a company close to ABCmaritime and they were taken over during 2011/2012. The technical and commercial management of the eight vessels was entrusted to ABCmaritime. The four tankers are ADFINES STAR, ADFINES SUN, ADFINES SKY and ADFINES SEA, they are long term time chartered and operate in world-wide tramping. The four bulk carriers are named ADFINES NORTH, ADFINES SOUTH, ADFINES EAST and ADFINES WEST each with a deadweight of 37'000 mt. The vessels were received during 2012 and are time chartered to Cargill SA Geneva, operating in the spot market.
On 29.09.2012 ABCmaritime, Nyon marked its 30th anniversary. From humble beginnings ABCmaritime has grown into a medium sized player in the shipping industry, employing about 50 persons in its head office in Nyon and 20 abroad. About 500 seamen serve on board the 32 vessels owned or managed by ABCmaritime.
The fleet of 32 vessels consists of 16 offshore vessels, 12 tankers and 4 bulk carriers, which except for two landing crafts built 1990 and 1993, were constructed in 2002 or later. With this young and modern fleet ABCmaritime is well positioned for the challenges of the future.
HPS-SwissShips, November, 2013