With forty-four active ships in its fleet, four offices worldwide and 9.2 million tons of cargo lifted in 2015, it’s no surprise that Team Tankers is among the top ten chemical tanker operators in the world. In January last year, it underwent a significant restructuring process to re-establish its strong position and set it up for a successful future. CEO Hans Feringa says the industry is not an easy one to be in, with too much capacity coming into the market and
a need for significant consolidation. Given the strong balance sheet, he sees opportunities for the business going forward.
“Several of the large shareholders in Team Tankers had originally bought bonds in the company and converted those to equity in the restructuring,” says Hans. “They said, ‘We’re here now, let’s do it right’, and combined their experience in finance, investment and shipping. They sought a top tier management team to build the business up and I agreed to come on board as CEO in September 2015.
Beating market benchmarks
“It was a long restructuring process and when we came out of it I think we were too diversified: we were doing a lot of different activities and we really needed to focus. We looked at each of our business units against five metrics which were: What scale do we have in that business? Do we have a differentiated trading ability? Do we beat the market benchmarks? Do we have customer support in terms of contracts and preferred relationships; and finally, what does the supply demand balance for that segment look like?
At the end of that process we decided to exit some businesses and grow others. That’s really what we have been doing since I came on board: that has been phase one. So from five business units we are now active in three, and I would say that two of those are at scale.”
With all these changes happening, Hans could see many openings for Team Tankers. And with his long experience in the global shipping sector he was well equipped to capitalise on them. Hans’ immediate role prior to joining Team Tankers was as the President of Stolt Tankers, a division of Stolt-Nielsen, and the largest parcel tanker operator in the world.
“Stolt was a very interesting company,” Hans says. “It became a real stand out in the industry. The CEO was a family member — younger than I was — and we worked together well. However, he wanted to stay in that position for several more years so I had to make a decision about what I wanted for my future, which was to take on a more entrepreneurial role. I saw an opportunity to be part of a bigger universe with Team Tankers and to run it as CEO. I had a long discussion with all the directors and they were very supportive of what we wanted the business to become, despite the challenges facing the industry.
“The number one priority for Team Tankers at the moment is to develop our role as an industrial operator in the chemical shipping sector, adding value to what we are good at instead of being involved in too many activities. Safety and reliability are necessary conditions for our customers and our aim is to be the preferred supplier to the most demanding customers. We are working very closely with our own suppliers and other partners, many of which we have been doing business with for several decades, to achieve these goals.
From five businesses we are now active in three, and I would say that two of them are at scale.
“It’s quite clear what we’re trying to build,” Hans states. “Shipping is tough at the moment but if it was easy everyone would be doing it. We’ve been working really hard but it has also been a lot of fun. We are an industrial chemical tanker operator, and one of the leading players. I’m convinced that we will see consolidation because that’s very much overdue in our industry.
“It goes without saying that we want to do it right the first time, and all the time. Due to the nature of our business we are often the face of our customers to their own customers, and we work for international and multinational [!petro!] chemical producers. They employ us to transport their products and, above all else, to do it safely. I believe that if you can work with the most demanding customers then you are going to be a winner because it’s the most demanding customers who are going to do well in the long run. We strive to give a superior commitment to our customers in terms of quality, safety, and assurance; that’s the basis for creating long-term value.”