Robert Uggla: Svitzer must deliver better results

Building from a new strategy for Svitzer, CEO Robert Uggla has set ambitious goals for the Maersk Group's towing- and salvaging company. Things are moving in the right direction, "but we're not there yet", says Uggla after one year on the job.

Photo: Magnus Eklsf

The Maersk Group's towing- and salvaging company Svitzer has to make more money for its owner, A.P. Moeller-Maersk. That's the no-frills statement of the shipping company's CEO and grandson of Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, Robert Uggla, who has now spent approximately one year at the head of the company.

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In the last five years, Svitzer has provided the Maersk Group with a six percent return on the capital invested by the Group, and that's not good enough.

In the most recent edition of Svitzer's internal publication, Lighthouse Magazine, Robert Uggla writes in the editorial that developments in the first quarter of 2013 moved in the right direction, but he also stresses that the shipping company can do much better.

"Svitzer's greatest challenge over the last few years has been our poor financial returns. For the first time since 2007, the return generated in the first quarter of this year for towage operations has exceeded our capital costs, which is a step in the right direction. Together we can do much better than that. Furthermore, our financial performance varies greatly depending on region and operation," writes Robert Uggla in the editorial.

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Svitzer launched its new strategy "Raise the Wind" a few months back, which contains three objectives to strengthen the shipping company. And one of these objectives is "profitable growth," where the company plans to increasingly focus on long-term contracts, unlike today where regular towing makes up a fairly large share of the activities. The company will also find ways to make prices and increased crew efficiency help raise the bottom line.

Another objective Robert Uggla mentions concerns the many safety systems and safety procedures the company has used to date. A total of seven different safety systems and no less than 900 safety procedures will have to be cut down to one safety system and 250 safety procedures, to increase the efficiency as well as streamlining the safety system.

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Safety became a pressing topic for Robert Uggla shortly after he became CEO, when one of the company's ships, Al Deebel, was hit by an explosion that killed seven mariners. The day of the accident, April 29th 2012, has been named official "Safety Day" at Svitzer, and according to the CEO, there's a pressing need to work with safety, both at the company and in the towing industry in general:

"The time has come to raise the target for our industry, which is in many ways lacking behind other maritime and offshore-related industries," said Robert Uggla in December 2012 when the new strategy was presented.

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