Export managers

Exmar NV, a public limited liability company on the Belgian stock market, was established after the de-merger of shipping group Campagnie Maritime Belgium (CMB), following a shareholder decision in 1991 to spin off its gas transport business. Exmar Shipmanagement, a fully-owned subsidiary, is specialised in vessel management services. Like its parent, Exmar Shipmanagement considers innovation key to ongoing success and has focused on this throughout its lifetime to maintain a grip on the market’s leading edge.

Currently, Exmar Shipmanagement runs a fleet of 36 ships including LPG, LNG, LNG regasification vessels (RVs) and ethylene carriers, FPSOs, chemical tankers, and floating regasification and storage units (FRSUs). These are administrated from its head office in Antwerp, Belgium, and satellite offices in Luxembourg, Cyprus, India and Singapore. Apart from these ships, the company also provides a vast range of highly specialised services including: crewing for any vessel but with an emphasis on LNG, LNG RV, LPG carriers, chemical and product tankers, crude oil tankers, dry cargo vessels and offshore units; technical and health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) management by experienced onboard managerial teams to guarantee optimal operation, maintenance and performance; and technical, marine and IT consultancy including pre-purchase inspections, building and commissioning supervision, port facility security, training and drills, audits and installation of onboard IT systems.

CEO Captain Marc Nuytemans explains that, to offer such a range, Exmar Shipmanagement advocates a HR policy that focuses on recruitment and retention through career progression: “We are a different kind of ship manager because most of the vessels we manage require staff who are not only technically the very best but who are also excellent in understanding the demands we get from our clients at the high end of the market. Therefore the focus of the business is on quality rather than quantity throughout management, technical expertise, customer services and transparency. Our ships’ staff typically participates in leadership development programmes that include personal coaching spread over two years, whilst we offer a personalised career development plan that includes MBAs, entrepreneurial bootcamps and ideation exercises within the office. I’d rather make money supporting our clients and parent in pursuing their business goals than chasing standard ship management. The return is much higher.”

Furthermore, the company has looked beyond the maritime industry to incorporate the key elements of modern business management such as Lean Six Sigma and Lean Office principles to streamline office and vessel practices. It has recruited managers from outside the marine market, thereby giving Exmar Shipmanagement a valuable objective element to its business, and used their experience to apply such principles not only to the company but also to the projects that it manages.

This unique approach reflects Exmar Shipmanagement’s understanding that innovation is important to keep a business at the market’s leading edge. For example, Exmar NV was responsible for pioneering ship-to-ship LNG transfer – a technique that has now become an industry standard – and Exmar Shipmanagement was key to delivering the expertise and human resources required to make this a successful procedure. More recently Exmar has also been leading the way in FPSOs by designing and developing the OPTI-EX, an advanced production semi-submersible able to operate in ultra deepwaters of up to 3000 metres. “We continue to invest heavily in research and development in order to remain at the forefront of the most important technological improvements within the oil and gas industry,” Marc comments.

He adds: “Something else that makes us quite unusual is our market strategy and positioning and our drive for high-end business development. Over the past 18 months, we have captured new business delivering first class consultancy services to the global gas industry and, in February, succeeded in closing a deal with Morgan Stanley to provide it with all necessary consultancy services to make its delivery of LNG to Argentina a success.”

Ultimately, this approach has proved itself through Exmar Shipmanagement’s position at the top of the market. Business has been good even through economically uneasy times, maintaining long-term relationships with partners such as Stolt, Excelerate Energy and ENI, and supplementing these with new contracts
such as the aforementioned Morgan Stanley agreement and delivery of services to the LNG FRSU, OLT Toscana.

“I think traditional players in mature markets have been hit,” concludes Marc about the company’s performance. “We did not really feel the punch since we had the occasion to secure more new business. If we keep venturing into innovative designs – not necessarily related to pure shipping but to complicated projects where marine and shipping experience is needed – there’s enormous potential for growth. I am convinced that introducing concepts like Lean Six Sigma, Business Transformation Office, Business Process Management and heavily investing in training programmes far beyond normal requirements puts us beyond ordinary competition. In the coming years, we will continue to be the leader in offering complex solutions to problems where maritime experience is necessary.”

Major international presence
Forward-thinking business practices
Highly experienced staff and seafarers