Pres­i­dent of Thome Group, Claes Eek Thorstensenon how the Group keeps up with changes in the ship­ping in­dus­try.

We sat down with Pres­i­dent and CCO of Thome Group of Com­pa­nies, Claes Eek Thorstensen, for a chat about how the Group keeps up with changes in the ship­ping in­dus­try.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - SOFIE LISBY

The ship­ping in­dus­try has been faced with a num­ber of chal­lenges in re­cent years. Cy­ber se­cu­rity, piracy, au­toma­tion, de­creas­ing oil prices and changes in the eco­nomic makeup of the world are just some of the is­sues that have shaped the in­dus­try over the past decade and con­tinue to do so to­day.

Nav­i­gat­ing these is­sues is Claes Eek Thorstensen, Pres­i­dent and CCO of the Thome Group of Com­pa­nies. Es­tab­lished in Sin­ga­pore in 1963 by Nor­we­gian founder, Fridtjov Thome and Thome Ship Man­age­ment later by Olav Eek Thorstensen, the com­pany has grown to be­come one of the lead­ing ship man­agers in the world, rep­re­sented world­wide by 11 of­fices. Head­quar­tered in Sin­ga­pore where the com­pany’s cor­po­rate man­age­ment and most of the ship man­age­ment and con­trol func­tions are based, Thome Group of Com­pa­nies em­ploys ap­prox­i­mately 800 peo­ple ashore and around 12,000 of­fi­cers and crew dis­trib­uted on more than 300 ves­sels around the globe.

“Thome is a very global com­pany but we are try­ing to main­tain as­pects of our Nor­we­gian her­itage,” ex­plains Mr Thorstensen. “Our core val­ues, our his­tory and what we stand for are very much Nor­we­gian. We usu­ally say we have the per­fect mix of Scan­di­na­vian ship­ping tra­di­tion with Asian busi­ness flair.”

Not­with­stand­ing the Nor­we­gian her­itage, Sin­ga­pore is a nat­u­ral lo­ca­tion for the ma­jor­ity of the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to Mr Thorstensen. “There is a rea­son why Sin­ga­pore was voted the most im­por­tant Ship­ping Hub in 2017,” he says. “It is a nat­u­ral place to head­quar­ter a ship man­age­ment op­er­a­tion. It is a blend of strate­gic lo­ca­tion, transit hub, large port, busi­ness friendly gov­ern­ment, fo­cus on ef­fi­ciency, avail­abil­ity of well qual­i­fied peo­ple and also a ship­ping cen­tre where the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers are lo­cated. Thome stays com­pet­i­tive in Sin­ga­pore by en­sur­ing that the pro­cesses are up­dated and ef­fi­cient and that re­quired back of­fice ser­vices are lo­cated in more cost-ef­fec­tive lo­ca­tions.”

Train­ing has al­ways had a strate­gic fo­cus within the group. The train­ing ma­trix cov­ers the In­sti­tute for Sup­ply Man­age­ment (ISM), Stan­dards of Train­ing, Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and Watch­keep­ing for Sea­far­ers ( STWC), op­er­a­tion and added value cour­ses. In ad­di­tion to the 28,000 train­ing days per year, Thome runs op­er­a­tion work­shops and fast-track of­fi­cer pro­grams for promis­ing high per­form­ing of­fi­cers.

Suc­cess and per­for­mance are mea­sured on a num­ber of pa­ram­e­ters, in­clud­ing weather rout­ing, speed and con­sump­tion, trim and bal­last­ing, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and fuel con­ser­va­tion, heat re­cov­ery op­ti­mis­ing, equip­ment main­te­nance, cor­rect equip­ment and ma­chin­ery op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, ef­fi­cient turn-around in port, moor­ing op­er­a­tion, cargo han­dling, and op­ti­mi­sa­tion of work and rest hours on-board. This leaves a lot of scope for train­ing and con­stant im­prove­ment.

“A ship man­ager is judged by his per­for­mance both on voy­age, cargo han­dling and care, and dur­ing port op­er­a­tions,” ex­plains Mr Thorstensen. “Thome Group strives for con­stant im­prove­ment of per­for­mance through strin­gent HSSEQ [Health, Safety, Se­cu­rity, En­vi­ron­ment and Qual­ity, red.] sys­tems, vet­ting prepa­ra­tion, train­ing and in­no­va­tive man­age­ment. We are com­mit­ted to build­ing long term re­la­tion­ships with our cus­tomers. Train­ing is im­por­tant be­cause in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, op­ti­mised man­age­ment and op­er­a­tion of the fleet is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant.”

Mr Thorstensen re­cently at­tended the Lon­don In­ter­na­tional Ship­ping Week, a highly an­tic­i­pated in­dus­try event held ev­ery other year and of­fer­ing over 160 in­dus­try func­tions, events and unique net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for lead­ers across all sec­tors of the in­ter­na­tional ship­ping in­dus­try. The event high­lighted a num­ber of trends and is­sues fac­ing the ship­ping in­dus­try.

“The top­ics cov­ered dur­ing the Lon­don In­ter­na­tional Ship­ping Week were nu­mer­ous as there were over 160 events dur­ing the week but the main take­away for us as a ship man­ager was the drive to­wards com­pli­ance, al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources and dis­cus­sions around au­ton­o­mous ship­ping and its likely fu­ture,” says Mr Thorstensen.

“There were some in­ter­est­ing de­bates dur­ing the main con­fer­ence where most del­e­gates felt that we were still 20 or more years away from au­ton­o­mous ship­ping due to reg­u­la­tory, in­sur­ance and le­gal con­sid­er­a­tions.

“What role the hu­man el­e­ment will play in mar­itime au­ton­omy was de­bated too, as many felt that hav­ing com­pletely un­manned ves­sels was a non-starter par­tic­u­larly from a se­cu­rity point of view.

“Our view at Thome is that au­ton­o­mous ship­ping is some­thing for the fu­ture and not some­thing we will see in our gen­er­a­tion, at least not for deep sea ship­ping. It is a lit­tle like elec­tric cars – I be­lieve we will see a hy­brid so­lu­tion where au­ton­o­mous ship­ping will be im­ple­mented step by step first on short sea trips and fer­ries. So while it is hard to imag­ine fully un­manned ves­sels, they will def­i­nitely be­come more au­ton­o­mous and have fewer peo­ple on board.”

The con­se­quences of au­ton­o­mous ship­ping for ship man­age­ment are sig­nif­i­cant, ac­cord­ing to Mr Thorstensen. “Ship man­age­ment com­pa­nies like ours will have to adopt a dif­fer­ent fo­cus,” he fore­sees. “There will be an added em­pha­sis on con­trol from the of­fice and there will be a need for more spe­cialised peo­ple ashore and a more di­verse range of com­pe­ten­cies. Ves­sels will be man­aged and op­er­ated from the of­fice rather than on-board and that also re­quires re­train­ing of the sea­far­ers that do re­main on-board, they will need dif­fer­ent com­pe­ten­cies than what they have at the mo­ment.”

An­other of the top­ics of the Lon­don In­ter­na­tional Ship­ping Week was that of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion. “Dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion was also dis­cussed at length in­clud­ing the in­ter­net of things, cy­ber se­cu­rity, and broad­band con­nec­tiv­ity,” notes Mr Thorstensen. “Many op­er­a­tors are al­ready reap­ing the re­wards of hav­ing live data sent from the ves­sels back to the of­fice which can be an­a­lysed to help with de­ci­sion mak­ing to im­prove op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies.”

Es­pe­cially the topic of cy­ber se­cu­rity is high on Mr Thorstensen’s mind. In June this year, Dan­ish ship­ping gi­ant A. P. Møller-Maersk, among oth­ers, was sub­ject to a cy­ber-at­tack that that left a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its IT sys­tems down for days and cost the com­pany an es­ti­mated USD 300 mil­lion in lost profit.

“Cy­ber se­cu­rity is def­i­nitely a con­cern of ours,” says Mr Thorstensen. “We have beefed up our IT se­cu­rity and sup­port for both of­fices and ves­sels. We have hired ad­di­tional peo­ple and have an en­tire depart­ment deal­ing only with IT se­cu­rity. How­ever, when it comes to cy­ber se­cu­rity, it doesn’t stop at your own com­pany, you will also have to make sure that your sup­pli­ers, sub-sup­pli­ers and part­ners have proper sys­tems in place to deal with among oth­ers pay­ment and trans­ac­tions.”



Above: Of­fi­cers and crew on board the Thome man­aged Pa­cific Glory.

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