Tsakos and Columbia launch management venture.
TSAKOS Shipping & Trading and Schoeller Holdings, the parent of Cyprus-based Columbia Shipmanagement, have formed a landmark joint venture that, in a first phase, will take over management of the Greek group"s fleet of about 80 vessels.
Falling within the scope of the new arrangements is the 50-strong tanker fleet owned by the group"s US-listed publicly traded tanker company Tsakos Energy Navigation.
But the partnership with Columbia will also take over a substantial privately run Tsakos fleet, including very large crude carriers and other tankers, as well as bulk carriers, container vessels and ro-ros.
Existing Tsakos Group shipmanagement staff are being switched to the newly formed joint company, Tsakos Columbia ShipManagement, which will be known as TCM.
It is understood that the plans were recently unveiled internally for the first time and treated as a sensitive matter in view of Tsakos" family-run history and internal pride over its operating track record.
A management spokesman said that Tsakos" pool of shore staff and seafarers would remain unchanged, with little prospect of any job losses although the new setup"s needs are still being evaluated. Rather, the aim is to expand the scope of the venture through providing true third-party technical and crew management to other shipowners, with the main focus being on the Greek market.
It is expected that TCM will start operations in the second quarter of 2010.
The move is likely to catch the Greek market by surprise. TCM is the first real example of one of the big Greek shipowners teaming up with a third party shipmanager and in general it is estimated that technical management has been outsourced for less than 5% of the Greek fleet.
Both sides of the partnership are understood to believe that there is space for a combination of traditional Greek operating and third party disciplines to capture a portion of this near-virgin market.
It is not the first time that Tsakos, often seen as a traditionalist, has confounded the market. In the 1990s it was the first Greek shipowner to be sponsoring two public companies, Global Ocean Carriers and the company now called TEN.
It is understood that the idea of taking TCM public in years to come has not been ruled out.
Contacted by Lloyd"s List late last week, Columbia managing director Dirk Fry would only confirm that Tsakos was a client of his company.
While a management link has existed for about a decade and last year Columbia was managing four tankers for the group, Capt Fry said the relationship was ?growing?.
As is the case with most of the leading international shipmanagers, Columbia is thought to have little in the way of other Greek business that would be a conflict with TCM"s third-party ambitions.
The Tsakos spokesman said that the driving idea behind the venture in terms of the group"s own fleet was ?to try and improve an already good operation?.
He said: ?We feel that you need economies of scale?.
While Tsakos" fleet makes it one of the largest five Greek shipowners, Columbia has about 350 vessels under various types of management contract.
TCM will be based in the Tsakos Group"s headquarters in southern Athens but will operate independently under a separate document of compliance. At the same time, existing Tsakos quality and safety systems will continue without interruption.
?There are synergies in every respect, from crewing all the way to insurance. Some of it may not happen on the first day but it will bring further benefits more gradually over time,? said the source at Tsakos.
?We are looking to combine the best of the two different approaches between a traditional shipowner and a first class manager,? he said.