Unlimited possibilities

Established in 2004, Universal Marine is the parent company and umbrella name for a group of Dutch companies providing management services to the maritime industry. It is headquartered in Krimpen aan den IJssel, the Netherlands, and manages a sizeable fleet of vessels between 10,000 and 60,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT) on term charters to clients throughout the globe. Euroteam Chartering is one of four Universal Marine subsidiaries providing commercial management for its 18 vessels.

The roots of Universal Marine date back to 1982 but it was the reformation of Dutch income tax laws in 2001 that gave the organisation and limited partners new opportunities for investment. This model sees limited partners participate with amounts as little as 5000 euros in exchange for a share of the operational profits proportional to their investment. Thus Universal Marine was established as an independent, shareholderdriven venture that to date has invested approximately 345 million euros into its vessels and services. Almost 40 per cent of this, or 134 million euros, has come in as limited partner capital from nearly 11,000 investors – making it among the largest shipping investment brokers in the Netherlands.

The business of running its 18 ships is handled by the group’s four divisions, each dedicated to a different task: fleet manager Universal Shipping; Universal Crew Management; Universal Marine Investments, which handles investment activity; and Groningen-based Euroteam Chartering, which offers brokerage and chartering as well as market analysis. Together, they pursue Universal Marine’s vision of providing quality international marine transport services with a healthy return for its investors.

Universal Marine’s fleet comprises a mix of container ships, bulk carriers and multi-purpose vessels (MPVs), all of which are newbuilds constructed in China under the strict supervision of Universal Marine’s staff. By far the most common of its vessels are the ten 1100 TEU container ships that all bear the suffix ‘River’ in their name including Surinam River, Amazon River, Amur River and Orinoco River – all constructed at the Wuhan Qingshan shipyard. There are two larger 1700 TEU container ships (Caribbean Sea and Mediterranean Sea), two handy-sized 22,000 DWT bulk carriers (Universal Amsterdam and Universal Antwerp), the 57,000 DWT supramax bulk carriers Universal Bremen and Universal Barcelona, and a single MPV named Bosphorus.

All these vessels are under the commercial management expertise of Euroteam Chartering. Because this subsidiary is 100 per cent owned by Universal Marine, the number of links between client and parent company is kept at a minimum; this means bureaucracy is minimal and a reduction in commissions paid out to third parties. Euroteam Chartering’s role includes management of equipment and staff on all 18 vessels, insurance and ISM certification, vessel finance, technical management, newbuild management, and the buying and selling of vessels.

Despite being a complete subsidiary of Universal Marine, Euroteam Chartering also offers services to third parties as well. This includes the charting of tonnage, travel cost calculation, emergency assistance with 24-hour availability by phone and technical management that includes supervisory services, shipyard docking, invoicing and cost control. Because it has a network of close contacts throughout the global transport market as well as the expertise of Universal Marine behind it, clients benefit from Euroteam Chartering’s incredibly competitive rates and reliable management.

Subsidiary Universal Shipping shares the responsibility for the daily operations of the sailing fleet and the well being of crew. This means its role involves making sure that the vessel and crew are properly insured, that the vessel has appropriate food and provisions onboard for its journeys, booking routine maintenance duties, cost control, and insuring that its ISM system is fully up-to-date.

Universal Crew Management is responsible for getting the fleet properly manned. With the skill and experience of crewmen absolutely crucial to the good performance on any route, the company employs from across the world to find highly motivated, well-qualified officers and crewmen. Universal Marine Investments, meanwhile, is the group’s first contact point for all potential investors as well as keeping all current investors up-to-date with regards to the financial performance of their respective vessels. In much the same way as Euroteam Chartering, one of the major benefits of Universal marine Investments is its 100 per cent ownership by Universal Marine meaning that the group has total control over issues of capital. Investors can therefore rest assured their finances are in good and accountable hands.

This investment and operational model has clearly proven a success for everybody involved, with the company having grown from just a single vessel to nearly 20 in just seven years, something ukUniversal Marine pins on the experience and business sense of CEO and founder Cor Vermeulen. This rapid growth, however, also means the company has rapidly approached its maximum fleet size. Currently there are four supramax bulk carriers under construction – Baltimore, Bangkok, Brisbane and Bilbao – but beyond that Universal Marine is not actively looking to build or acquire any more ships.

Instead, for the future, it is looking to improve on the range of services and third party clients. Thus far Universal Marine’s subsidiaries have worked almost exclusively with its sister companies, gaining valuable experience in the field, but now the company is looking to branch further into the industry by attracting more outside clients. Specifically, Universal Marine and Euroteam Chartering are looking to grow within the container sector where it has already established its own fleet as names to be relied upon. Building on the financial backing and industry experience the group already has, it seems these goals will be achieved with all the energy of a young and eager business.

Young but eager, experienced and with extensive contacts
Rapid growth over seven years
Reliable limited partnership investment model