Partner Shipping, which entered the car carrier and ro-ro market last year, has found an investor to capitalise the company as it seeks to expand its ocean services. Siem Industries, an industrial group with activity in oil, gas and shipping, has invested in 50% of the company, with the other half left in the hands of the original management team. Siem’s Simon Stevens is now the Chairman of Partner Shipping.
Helge Helvik, the Commercial Director for Partner Shipping, said that the company had planned all along to use the first year to assess what investor opportunities it could find. “We were amazed at the number of companies willing to invest [in Partner Shipping], given the economic times,” he told Automotive Logistics. “The Siem Group marked itself as the best candidate for us as it represents a good balance in shipping. It has an interest to join us and expand further in the car carrier market under the Partner Shipping flag.”
The Siem Industries Group has its main areas of its shipping activity in the oil and gas service industry. It also owns Siem Car Carriers, which owns two carriers, each with a capacity for 4,300 cars and 400 high and high units, with one on charter to Höegh until 2011, and the other to Volkswagen Logistics until the middle of next year.
Helvik said that while the decision to move these vessels into Partner Shipping’s fleet after their charters end has not yet been taken, it would be a serious consideration. Currently, Partner operates under an asset-light model, arranging transport on the spot market as well as chartered vessels. Helvik said that Siem’s investment means that the company can charter more ships, as well as to purchase tonnage.
“[Buying tonnage] is a definite possibility as there are a number of vessels and owners under distress right now, and the banks have already contacted us to evaluate what we can do jointly [to acquire those vessels],” he said.
The ro-ro market is currently suffering from a severe over-capacity following a sharp downturn that occurred just after many shipping lines had ordered new vessels or expanded old one. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL), for example, after adding seven new ships to its fleet this year, has put 25% of its fleet into lay up (link).
Some carriers are facing repossession of vessels as they are not earning enough money on them to keep up with loan payments. Such assets, which could then be sold or leased at a discount, represents a significant opportunity for a start up to expand in the market with a lower cost base.

Partner’s next phase of investment is likely to focus on the North America/Pacific Service (NAPA) service that it operates from the US west coast to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Partner is currently moving a mix of high-and-heavy cargo, mafi trailers, and has recently inked a deal for passenger cars as well, the name of which cannot yet be disclosed.

“We are also very close to adding a Mexican port [to the NAPA service],” he said. “In this case we might either add more service, or bring in larger tonnage, and we have secured both options.”