First to employ Indians on board, Univan Ship Management has plans to utilize more Indian seafarers for their future expansions
Claims to be the first foreign company to employ Indian seafarers on its global fleet Univan Ship Management Limited has chalked up a robust expansion plan banking on employing mariners from India. With around 90 vessels presently under their management, the company has taken a steady growth path adding 10 vessels in the past 15 months and now plans to add five more in the coming year and more thereafter.
“We prefer a slow and steady growth,” says Capt Bjorn Hojgaard, Chief Executive Officer of Univan Ship Management Limited. “We have already lined up well trained and capable seafarers ready to be absorbed on the new ships that will join our fleet. Our seafarers can handle any ship in whatever trade it may be involved in. Unlike shipping companies we do not get affected by the economic crisis because ship management companies have long term contract. However, profits can be marginal at times. But then ship management companies never make a lot of profit and it is not the best business to be in. Yes, we run the risk of not getting reappointed by our customers.”
Speaking about training the floating staff, Capt Hojgaard informs that it is considered to be a very crucial aspect of their business model. In comparison to around 200 people working in their offices round the world, the number of people on board Univan ships exceeds 2000. Hence, training and retraining it has been able to create a floating staff which is broad based, competent and having the essential know how on what they are supposed to do.
On the retention side Univan is supposed to have set up a good track record. Capt Hojgaard points out, “Our retention rate is 98 per cent. It was Univan's founder, Captain C. A. J. Vanderperre, widely acknowledged as the father of modern ship management, who was the first to recognize the potential of Indian seafarers. So Univan has been in this part of the world employing Indian seafarers on their global fleet. It is a tremendous help for the company that Indian seafarers have been able to deliver high quality of services to our customers and maintain a high retention level. Our tanker fleet is almost exclusively manned by Indians who are able to perform at high quality level considering that we have different mix of tankers. Yes, we have lot of good talented people working with us. I feel there are good prospects for younger generation of Indian seafarers.”
Univan offers a congenial working environment. Even fatigue is no more an issue. With the new regulations viz. Manila Maritime Labor Convention coming in, fatigue is expected to be a thing of the past. “When I was sailing more than 16 years back things were more difficult,” recalls Capt Hojgaard. “I believed in keeping myself busy doing work while on board since I felt I might as well keep myself busy.”
Commenting on accidents at sea, 90 per cent of which are being attributed to human error Capt Hojgaard points out, “The worst incidents happen when people begin to think that they are invincible, that they can do everything and cannot make mistakes thus unable to project themselves. We can make mistakes but once a person thinks he is invincible than there is a tendency of getting insulated from reality. Through training we help seafarers to plan ahead and maintain safety barriers in their operations. Every opportunity is used whether near misses, wrong decisions, etc to learn from such mistakes.”