Thorco Projects has no interest in acquisitions or vessel purchases

Thorco Projects will not be playing an active role in the consolidation of the project cargo shipping market. Instead, the company wants to remain asset-light, chairman Thor Stadil says. 

Consolidation in the heavy-lift and project cargo shipping sector is in full swing, with Zeaborn announcing just last week that the Bremen-based company has taken full control of the joint venture Zeamarine which was established together with Intermarine in September last year.

There have also been numerous headlines about Hansa Heavy Lift’s insolvency and the shipping company where Hansa Heavy’s ships ended up, the Amsterdam-based multipurpose vessel operator Spliethoff.

But even though second-hand ships can be picked up for attractive prices, Thorco Projects has no interest in playing an active role in the current consolidation of the market, Stadil says in an interview with Danish newspaper Shippingwatch.

“The fewer [companies] there are, and the more ships are gathered on a few hands, the better for us. But I’ll say this to the others: Good luck. I’m just delighted that it’s not me,” the chairman of Thornico Group, the parent company of Thorco Projects, says.

Instead of buying vessels, the company, as part of a new strategy set out some years ago, prefers to charter vessels on both long and short term contracts.

“We have been offered many of the major transactions you’ve seen in recent years, and we’ve also been in talks with some of them. So we could have done exactly the same. But we’ve chosen a different strategy in which we don’t want to own that many ships ourselves,” says Stadil.

Expensive ships

The strategy change follows after Thorco lost a lot of money purchasing ships at too high prices. The company had expected that the vessels’ market values would increase but instead, the market continued to slide forcing Thorco to sell the vessels at a loss. As a result, Sofia Shipping A/S, the family company of Stadil, booked a loss of 27 million dollars in 2017.

In a recent market review of analyst firm Dynamar, Thorco Projects dropped from third to seventh place in the heavy-lift top-10 because the company has been selling off tonnage. “Thorco Projects continues reducing its fleet with this time the number of ships falling by 13 units to 35 vessels with a combined deadweight of 533,000 tons,” Dynamar wrote.

Thorco CEO Thomas Mikkelsen, however, told Shippingwatch he does not recognize these numbers. “It’s no secret that we have sold off vessels over the years to adapt our tonnage to the market. We’ve done that through last year as well, but I’m not sure how they determine those numbers,” Mikkelsen said. “It’s important to remember that the fleet changes all the time at a company like ours. That’s how it is when you’re also an operator chartering vessels.” According to the CEO, Thorco Projects typically has a fleet of between 55 and 60 vessels on short and long-term contracts.

Author: Tobias Pieffers

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