Managing to be the best

Ishima PTE is a Singapore-based subsidiary of the d’Amico Group, providing comprehensive ship management services to both its parent company and third parties. d’Amico founded Ishima in 2005 and the two have remained operationally close ever since. In seven years the company has grown, from two vessels when founded to the 27 vessels including MR product tankers, chemical tankers, oil tankers and bulk carriers it has today.

Managing director Danilo Raffa talks in more depth about what Ishima offers its clients: “As with other management companies we offer full technical management, crewing and newbuilding supervision. We manage ships for the d’Amico Group of course as well as for GLENDA International Shipping, a joint venture between d’Amico and Glencore Group, as well as for Glencore’s shipping arm directly; DM Shipping, a joint venture between d’Amico and Mitsubishi; Kasuga of Japan; Nagashiki Shipping and Blue Wake Shipping, which is part of the Daishin Group, both of Japan; and Golden Ocean of Singapore. We are also currently in the latter stages of negotiations with European owners that will hopefully be finalised later this month.”

Despite its relatively young stature, Ishima has successfully expanded its business through keen business practices and astute customer service as well as the financial support of its parent company d’Amico. This has led to a sizeable fleet that will continue to grow in the coming months with a newbuilding supervisory contract it is currently handling.

Under its supervision are 11 newbuildings in South Korea, nine of which are MR tankers, as well as two bulk carriers at yards in China with contracts for a further four under negotation. These are contemporary vessel designs that have low fuel consumption, high-performance hulls and state-of-the-art propulsion systems.

One such vessel, a 300,000 DWT very large ore carrier (VLOC), has already been delivered whilst the remaining assets are expected for delivery once every two months. Many of these will go to third parties and not into Ishima’s own fleet but by the end of the year, the company hopes to have increased its own tonnage to approximately 30 vessels.

“We want to grow but not that much,” explains Danilo. “We had plans to expand much more but the market has not been great during the last 12 months. Instead we are now focusing on quality, giving good services to the ship under our management; we are constantly being audited by oil majors and gaining results that are more than satisfactory. By consolidating our existing services without overstretching ourselves we can ensure a good position for future growth. So whilst there are plans to increase, Ishima will be doing it slowly and steadily.”

Ishima has also faced challenges in finding the right people to man its vessels, as Danilo highlights: “The most difficult thing for us is crewing. A ship management company is a service company so our main asset is the people that work with us. It is essential to build a very strong team to satisfy the needs of vessels and clients. Fortunately we now have two new manning agencies, one in India and the other in the Philippines, as well as a third branch in Europe. This has allowed us to provide good crews for our vessels. Our clients are all reliable, high quality companies that have stuck with us despite turbulent times because of this.”

Ishima has faced a market in crisis during the last two years. The sectors it is present in – bulk carriers, chemical and product tankers – have all suffered diminishing business that Ishima, as a secondary service company, has felt through a lack of new interest. When economics comes under pressure, companies are of course less likely to start looking for new vessel managers. Consequently Ishima has experienced far fewer prospective enquiries than it did four or five years ago.

Despite this its existing business with reliable clients has helped it remain afloat and now the market looks to be recovering it is looking forward to an exciting future. “Ishima is looking at the medium to long term future for steady growth built on good foundations,” Danilo says. “We will work internally to improve our business and externally to improve our size, though we are not looking to manage 100 ships or anything like that.

Currently we are looking to expand by roughly 15 per cent per year. “That is the best I think we can be doing for ourselves and the market. In the end a ship is a big asset and if an owner offers you a management contract it means they trust you with something very important. Therefore we as a company must be reliable. We are still at a size where we can provide bespoke services. Currently we are a relatively young company and not too well known but through hard work and better marketing – something we are looking into at the moment – we hope to change this.”

Supervising 12 newbuilds
Focus on improving services
Part of d’Amico group