"Shipping has been too much fat and too much inefficiency"

Zeaborn is serious when it says mean and lean. There is plenty of fat to cut off and save costs. Fancy HQs, just to mention one. "We can deliver ship management spending half the money," the management tells ShippingWatch.


Shipping has suffered from inefficiency over the last 10 to 15 years, if you ask the dual management team of German Zeaborn, which apart from operating a growing fleet of multi-purpose vessels entered technical ship management of container vessels earlier this year.

Obviously, it would be wrong to say that overstaffed organizations located on the most expensive addresses in hubs like Hamburg or Singapore are the very reason why the shipping industry has been going through very tough times the last five or six years. But, costs have been much too high, while Quality and Transparency are leaking, says Ove Meyer, one of the founding partners of Zeaborn.

In the old shipping companies you should have a Harvard degree. In reality, much of this has led to 10 or 15 years of inefficiency in the industry"

Partner and Managing Director Jan-Hendrik Többe, Zeaborn

"If you look at the office spaces, it is not wrong to claim that shipping wanted to be pretty like anybody else. Exclusive headquarters and often high wages. However, the business model has had to be adjusted to today’s market. Our motto is not necessarily to be pretty or to be stars, but simply to earn money," he explains in an interview with ShippingWatch.

Zeaborn has opted to run its shipping group from a house in Bremen, next to majority owner Kurt Zech’s residence, more than an hour away from Hamburg’s iconic water front which houses several of the country’s historic maritime companies.

"A company like Rickmers has been a lot of windows dressing. In the old shipping companies you should have a Harvard degree. In reality, much of this has led to 10 or 15 years of inefficiency in the industry," supplements partner and managing director Jan-Hendrik Többe (photo, below).

A month ago, in the beginning of February, Zeaborn bought E.R. Schiffahrt, and with the acquisition the company significantly strengthened its forces within both MPP and the container segment. Zeaborn took over the entire company, including management, employees and subsidiaries, among these brokerage firm Harper Petersen & Co. With the deal including the management of 61 container vessels and 20 dry cargo ships, Zeaborn doubled the fleet of ships operated by the company.

In September last year, a consortium consisting of shipowner Bertram Rickmers and Zeaborn Group won the bidding war for insolvent Rickmers Group's ship management unit, including activities in Hamburg, Singapore, and Cyprus.

Today, 45 multi-purpose vessels and 160 container ships are under Zeaborn’s ship management which already has put the company on the global Top-10 ranking list according to Többe. And Zeaborn is convinced it can do a lot better and a lot cheaper than the traditional companies of the ship management industry..

"Today, many companies still allocate 2,5 or 3 staff members per customer in the admin. We expect to be able to deliver the service on a higher level with the allocation of close to one person," says Ove Meyer.

Expansion into the tankers segment could be one of the new options to be explored. Another opportunity would be to take part in a consolidation of the ship management industry which only has seen select takeovers.

In general, the Zeaborn duo believes that the overall market development favors the ship management industry with new challenges emerging around Big Data, regulation regarding transparency, environmental rules etcetera.

Zeaborn was established five years ago when the two partners brought one of Germany's biggest and most influential business developers – construction and real estate tycoon Kurt Zech – on board for the idea.

At the time, the multipurpose rates and asset values were at rock bottom, and this made Zech, who has otherwise built his fortune on real estate and hotels, to enter the project as primary investor.

Zeaborn is still looking to grow, and the company expects to add 20-30 ships to its fleet.

Zeaborn: Our debt free fleet is our crucial asset 

Zeaborn strengthens container business with huge acquisition 

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