Heavylift / Breakbulk
Well-placed in the world
The honeymoon is over – after three years. When Hansa Heavy Lift entered the market in 2011 there was quite a bit of scepticism as to whether the start-up firm would be able to find its niche and gain a foothold in the market. In the meantime it has established itself as one of the four largest providers of shipping capacities for extra-heavy loads. CEO Roger Iliffe and CCO Joerg Roehl explain why.
Three years have passed since Hansa Heavy Lift (HHL) took over twelve of the 72 ships which then belonged to Beluga Shipping, and emerged from the latter’s demise as a start-up enterprise in what is generally considered a rather traditional industry. The circumstances were anything but easy.
«It was clear from the very beginning that we had entered a difficult market,» Roger Iliffe, CEO at HHL, reflects. «This means that we are even happier to be able to draw a positive conclusion concerning our first years. We have not only implemented our business plan, but managed to exceed our own expectations.»
The decision to concentrate on regional structures can be deemed to have played a rather important role in this context. Steven Neuendorff has just taken over the role of head of the Americas and the management of the firm’s Houston branch office. The heavylift specialist brings with him more than 30 years of experience in the industry and will further expand the location, which covers North and South America.
A branch office in Singapore is in charge of activities in the Asia-Pacific region, while the headquarters in Hamburg cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Each of these three offices has its own structure. This applies to chartering and sales, but also to the operational side, covering load management and engineering. «The special thing is our decision to incorporate the entire set of functions that are operational across the company in the individual branch offices in the various regions too,» Joerg Roehl, CCO of HHL, explains. In addition, the corporation has opened offices in São Paulo and Perth this year. Offices in Shanghai and Monaco will follow shortly. These locations are not fully endowed with all the functions, however; they rather have operational access to one of the three regional offices.
Focusing on core operations
The reasons for the local presence are obvious: «It means we are based in the various time zones and, above all, closer to our customers. We are therefore able to react quickly. And it is at least as important that we also speak the same language,» Roehl elaborates.
HHL places a high priority on the regular exchange of key information between its locations in general. «This is about working together as a team across all functions,» Iliffe goes on to explain. «We have a daily video conference to provide mutual updates in this respect. There is also a representative from each region based in our Hamburg headquarters.»
That alone is not enough though. HHL’s focus, above all, is on the shipping of heavylift cargo and extra-heavy loads, as well as on project business. In this respect, customers place increasing emphasis on collaboration with a partner who can offer a solid safety record and whose units can comply with the ever increasing regulatory and operational demands.
«To be amongst the leading service providers in this field it is also important that we comply with all of the applicable ISO regulations, for example, as well as having the required qualifications,» Roehl explains. «The first commandment when considering the oil and gas industry in particular is compliance with safety standards, of course.»
The enterprise has now established itself as one of the four top shipping lines for the transportation of extra-heavy loads. That it was able to do so during one of the largest shipping downturns of all time is not just satisfying for the investors from Oaktree Capital, but also motivates the entire team.
Even with all this success – the state of the market remains anything but rosy, although the current financial year has already been better than the last one. In 2015 the firm expects that conditions will ease still further. The overcapacity in tonnage in the market is likely to keep the undertaking occupied for a little while longer, however.
In this context the keyword consolidation remains an issue. At HHL the managers remain pragmatic, however, as Roehl reveals. «Of course it is in our interest to position ourselves as the best provider with the greatest opportunities, but we are not pursuing any concrete plans in this regard at the moment. Naturally, we talk to each other in the industry, and explore the possibilities. Consolidation will only make sense, though, when two equal partners come together on an equal footing and combine their strengths.»
Hansa Heavy Lift
Hansa Heavy Lift’s fleet of specialised ships consists of a total of 22 units. With an average age of four years, the vessels from the F, P1 and P2 ranges have a capacity to carry between 10,000 and 20,000 t. The on-board cranes are designed to lift up to 1,400 t in tandem operation.