Songs of the sea

Laurin Maritime is a ship manager and operator with offices in, Houston, Gothenburg, Manila, and London, that currently has a fleet of 13 IMO II-class chemical/oil tankers. It was founded in 1980 and began operations in 1982 with two 10,000 deadweight tonnes (DWT) stainless steel chemical carriers and over the last three decades has grown organically, ordering purpose-built ships to meet the demands of the market whilst maintaining a fully integrated management service over its fleet. This approach has most recently led to the addition of the M/T Corrido, the operator’s 13th and latest vessel.

Like its sister ships Cavatina and Calypso, the Corrido is a medium range (MR) IMO II-class chemical and product tanker with 18 zinc- and epoxy-coated tanks over 13 berth separations for maximum flexibility in cargo type. Each tank carries fewer than 3000 cubic metres and is connected with stainless steel pipes. For increased safety and reliability, it also possesses a large nitrogen generator that layers a blanket of N2 atop chemical cargos to prevent contamination or dangerous and potentially explosive conditions.

“We like our ships and like working with them together with the owners,” explains managing director Mikael Laurin, “so the Corrido has a lot of features to make the cargo setup versatile and reliable. It can handle many different chemicals and substances at the same time without losing the speedy loading and discharge operations expected of modern chemical carriers. With the Corrido and its two sister vessels, we are trying to sit in a niche segment of the market that’s not a normal product carrier, not the highly specified stainless steel chemical carriers but somewhere in between. Our vessels have the flexibility to carry a full range of clean petroleum products (CPP), biofuels, vegetable oils and commodity chemical cargos.”

All of Laurin Maritime’s vessels, the Corrido included, are young 45,000 DWT tankers that bear striking aesthetic similarities to one another. The Trogir shipyard in Croatia built the nine most recent vessels of the fleet, beginning with six T-prefixed vessels including the Tarantella and Tintomara that were delivered between 2002 and 2004; the three C-prefixed vessels, meanwhile, were delivered between 2010 and 2011. “The ships all have the same size and hull form as well as fairly similar specifications because we like to use all of our ships flexibly between trades,” Mikael says. “However there are small differences, for example in how chemical capable they are, as it is good to have a mix that avoids the large expenses of highly specified vessels.”

Unlike many other companies in the sector, Laurin Maritime is proud to offer a comprehensive portfolio of services to clients that encompass every aspect of fleet management and operation. This means it handles everything from chartering and daily onboard tasks to accounting and environmental management, from quality control of work and cargo to full technical management and crewing. Such complete control of a ship that does not rely on third parties means clients can rely on Laurin Maritime to provide a reliable service.

Today, the company’s fleet operates almost exclusively within the Atlantic, in particular running contracts of affreightment from South and Central America and the Caribbean that originate or terminate in the US Gulf. It also undertakes Transatlantic trade. This region has been the company’s focus for a long time due both to its strategy of long-term partnerships with clients and a consequence of its fleet size. The oil, chemical and mining companies that have formed Laurin Maritime’s customer base for years are operating primarily within the ukAmericas; motivated by a desire to forge strong partnerships, Laurin Maritime understood that its resources would be spread too thinly if it attempted to operate globally.

Another key aspect of the operator’s reliable service is that it works closely with a ship’s crew in determining the best way in which to maintain a vessel. It accepts that the crew are the people that best understand the sensibilities and temperament of a ship, so works with them to make the best decisions in running it. An advantageous side effect of this is it also fosters an attitude of responsibility toward and pride in the vessel by its crew.

This strategy has obviously worked out well because Laurin Maritime’s business performance has been consistent even through unstable economic times. “The extreme markets we’ve seen over the last two and a half to three years definitely hurt us but our long-term contracts definitely gave us stability,” states Mikael. “Even though some of our contracts are market-related, and some were single direction only, our strong relationship with many clients meant we had financial stability but also – perhaps more crucially – regular employment of the fleet. That is important because we believe it is a better deal for everybody involved including crew if employment is regular rather than more lucrative but less frequent jobs. That means a more stable source of income and allows us to manage our fleet and clients many years further into the future.”

Over the next year the operator is taking delivery of two more IMO II-classed vessels, this time with names prefixed by the letter A. The first of the pair is called Amorina whilst the second is currently known only as New Building 324; both will arrive in 2012. The specifications for these ships have taken a step back from the complexity of the Corrido and its sisters, however, with Laurin Maritime deciding to refocus on more traditional product tankers in an attempt to diversify its capabilities a little further.

Following on from this, looking into the future, Mikael concludes that Laurin Maritime’s high fortunes will continue above and beyond its position today: “In four or five years we definitely think we will have expanded beyond the Atlantic. If all goes well we expect to put the company through another controlled expansion whilst looking into new markets. Today the Atlantic is a major but reasonably stagnant region for the chemical sector whilst the Middle and Far East are rapidly growing markets. We won’t change our basic strategy of course but we look forward to taking this strategy into new regions.”

Brand new versatile chemical tanker
Strategy of longterm relationships
Operates primarily in the Atlantic