One of the Maersk Group's central figures in the establishment and huge reconstruction of the group's port company, APM Terminals, has discretely stepped down from the company.
According to ShippingWatch's information, Peder Søndergaard, who recently held the title of Chief Portfolio Officer and was responsible for 32 terminal companies and global business development, including acquisitions and sales, will now be bidding farewell to the same company which he helped build up in a small team back in 2001 under the initiative of shipowner Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.
The port company's independence and distance from Maersk were crucial at that time, and was cemented with the relocation of APT Terminals' headquarters from Copenhagen to the Hague in the Netherlands back in 2004.
This longstanding business approach now faces a radical shift under the new Maersk management team led by Group CEO Søren Skou, when Maersk Line and APM Terminals are closely linked together with logistics company Damco, towage company Svitzer and container facility MCI.
Huge management reshuffle
APM Terminals' longstanding CEO of many years, Kim Fejfer, was replaced by Morten Engelstoft in the Hague at the end of 2016 after 12 years in the role. Today, Fejfer is CEO of the Maersk family's Africa fund A.P. Møller Capital.
The entire management of APM Terminals has today been shifted around and until recently, Søndergaard was the last man standing and an individual described to ShippingWatch as the most central figure in the development of the port company in close alignment with Fejfer.
APM Terminals was initially built up as part of Maersk Line's container business with the establishment of a company which makes billion US dollar investments in ports and terminals around the world, and which had to become independent of the group's own container carrier a few years later in order to make terminals available to the company's competitors, thus generating earnings for the group.
The fundamental philosophy around APM Terminal's independence of Maersk with significant port investments continued under the group's former CEO Nils Smedegaard Andersen, who was replaced by Maersk Line's longstanding CEO Søren Skou as Group CEO on July 1 2016.
With the notable exit of Søndergaard (pictured), the management reshuffle of APM Terminals is complete. Not counting oil earnings in the North Sea, APM Terminals was for a period part of the group's most important business together with Maersk Line, and contributed huge earnings to the group since its establishment in 2001, until a few years ago.
Impairments in APM Terminals
Over the past few years, APM Terminals has been struck by the company's significant exposure in Africa and countries with vulnerable and oil dependent economies, which have led to several major impairments. The same markets, which previously delivered strong earnings to Maersk due to the group's daring billion US dollar investment and port operations in complicated markets and countries with primitive infrastructure which required USD billions to modernize.
According to ShippingWatch's sources, Søndergaard's departure is related to an an internal discussion within Maersk about whether the group's massive billion dollar investment in ports and terminals, often on concessions of 20-30 years duration, will be a viable road for the new Maersk.
For years, Maersk had insisted that the two companies, despite obvious similarities in ownership, were independent companies that dealt with all carriers alike and on the same conditions. So when the integration of Maersk Line and APM Terminals was announced in 2016, it created turmoil amongst APM Terminals' customers and Maersk Line's competitors.
ShippingWatch has tried to get comment from Søndergaard, who according to sources has faced difficulty in developing new and future strategy for APM Terminals, and with the company's integration with Maersk Line.
English Edit: Lena Rutkowski