Essential services

DORIS Maritime Services is a ship management and maritime services company located in Geneva, Switzerland, specialising in container carriers and dry bulk carriers. Since 1983 it has provided extensive technical, commercial and financial management and problem solving to clients under the guidance of chief executive officer Nicolas Wirth and grown to include international partners Naess Ship Management BV in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; technical staff in Malta; and crewing company Pearl Grace in Manila, the Philippines. In total the three are currently providing management to a fleet of 18 vessels.

The last time that Shipping & Marine spoke with Nicolas, he mentioned two contracts DORIS was then pursuing: a South American FSRU, and three ships from a Greek owner that DORIS would handle crewing for. Whilst the FSRU contract has yet to progress, the three Greek newbuildings have since been crewed up by the company and gone on to sail successfully. The company is also in the process of crewing up Norwegian-owned supply ships for employment with Petrobras with an entirely Brazilian crew, though this has run into issues with the owner wanting to maintain its own crew on its expensive supply ships whilst Petrobras insists on maintaining a largely Brazilian project. DORIS’ role is to ensure that both parties agree on an arrangement.

Nicolas explains how this type of problem solving has been a standard part of DORIS’ service: “One of our strong points is that we can act fast, are able to muster a team quickly, and have quite some experience in dealing with exotic situations where various parties might be in conflict with each other. For instance, when an owner has had financial difficulties then its bank’s confidence may fail and it ends with a climate of distrust. Both parties then think the other is going to screw them over. Or if a ship has been abandoned and there is crew that has not been paid in a while, have no more provision, and are stuck in a foreign country, it’s important to go to the vessel and remedy the situation. If these problems arise they can call on DORIS and we can help sort out the situation.”

This type of problem solving is only one part of a huge variety of tasks that DORIS undertakes however. Of these, crewing is perhaps its most fundamental activity and something that the company has gained a considerable reputation for. It not only has within its ranks a multitude of high quality sailors and officers but also is able to retain them as well, with some having worked with DORIS for more than 20 years. It also has a keen sense for assembling the correct combination of personalities in a cost effective manner.

Technical management is also one of DORIS’ core services. “When a client comes in we will carry out a technical inspection and go through class records,” illustrates Nicolas. “Checking what needs repairing, we prepare a planned maintenance programme and then take control of the ship from its owner. We arrange insurances and supply all required spare parts for the repair plan as well as co-ordinatate with classification societies. When the time comes, we also send the vessel to a yard for class docking. Ships have evolved over time to become huge platforms supporting masses of cargo, often sailing through rough conditions, so it is important they remain closely monitored and maintained.”

DORIS’ nearly 30 years of success has seen it gradually expand, with Nicolas acquiring Naess Ship Management in 2005. Originally this was a company called Naess Shipping Holland belonging to the family of Norwegian shipping magnate Erling Naess, when its former management spun it off. Nicolas saw an opportunity to expand his business; in 2005 the company was restructured and renamed Naess Ship Management. Whilst it is independent from DORIS with its Geneva and Malta offices, Nicolas operates the two as though they are departments of a single entity with Naess tending toward crewing and insurance, DORIS toward commercial and supply roles. Together they can offer a comprehensive management package.

Such an array of skills has helped DORIS through the recession and ongoing market slump whilst a close relationship not only with owners but agents, banks, charterers and suppliers has been essential in keeping the company afloat. This can partly be credited to the company’s location in Geneva, where it is physically close to more than 400 trading companies including MSC, Cargill, ADM, Swiss Marine, Louis Dreyfus and many others that it counts as partners.

One thing DORIS is doing to further its business and aid the current market is private placements. “We are incorporating two companies – an asset-owning company and a management company that will manage the asset-owning company,” says Nicolas, explaining the process. “Investors buy shares in the asset owner whilst management proposes projects for it to undertake, typically for dry bulk carriers between 28,000 and 42,000 DWT. The first two ships will be bought with cash. After trading them for a period they will be leveraged and the liquidity used either to acquire another two ships or to go for newbuilding contracts. This will see DORIS entering 2013 with four handysized bulk carriers. We have already arranged several private placements and it means companies buying ships that we manage so that investors have money and we continue to have work.”

This will set DORIS in an ideal position for a regenerating market that Nicolas hopes will occur soon: “Right now it’s a question of being able to survive – for everyone – but we hope that by 2013 the smaller dry bulk carrier market will pick up and for containers it will be 2014 or 2015. If you want to benefit from these rejuvenating markets, though, then you have to start buying modern vessels now. That is why our private placements are important to the ongoing success of DORIS.”

Wide ranging skills
Close relations with partners
High performance quality