When and why did you start ACL Shipbrokers?
I started ACL Shipbrokers five years ago, with the objective of offering owners and operators a more bespoke shipbroking service, particularly in the workboat and port tug sectors.
What was your career before this?
After growing up and studying in Scotland, I served as an Officer in the Parachute Regiment for eight years. A large part of this service was on operations overseas. This gave me a lot of hands-on experience working under pressure which taught me to think on my feet and be adaptable. It also gave me an insight into geopolitics and the importance of world trade.
I had developed an interest in shipbroking and when an opportunity presented itself to work with DSB Offshore, a very well-respected broking house in London, I jumped at it. This was a great introduction to the industry, during which time I passed my Chartered Shipbroking exams and built the foundations of my career over the following seven years.
Can you remember your first experience with boats?
I have always had a passion for the sea taking every opportunity to get onboard vessels of any size, whether sailing as a youngster or volunteering for waterborne operations in the military. Today, whenever possible, I attend all vessel inspections to increase my knowledge of the way they operate. I still get a thrill being out on the water.
What are your specialisms?
As a company, Sale & Purchase of workboats, new and second hand, is our bread and butter. These range from marine construction and aquaculture boats to diving support vessels, both in the UK and on a worldwide basis. We also have a thriving Charter business where we assist owners in finding work for their vessels, both time charter and bareboat, and provide charter solutions to end clients on a project-by-project basis.
With discretion and integrity at the core of our approach, we are increasingly acting for clients as a trusted member of their team; assisting with organising independent surveys, deliveries and towage, amongst other services, often in far-flung parts of the world. This flexible and economic service is proving a real differentiator for us.
Where do you operate from and where have you worked?
We have our registered office in London, but I have been operating from a home office in Edinburgh for many years; efficient use of technology allows me to keep an eye on the business whilst being out and about gathering market intelligence and being of more value to my clients. I am happiest out on the road inspecting vessels and visiting clients anywhere I am required.
Have there been any ‘stand-out’ projects?
We were asked last year by a close Canadian client to search for a specific size and type of multipurpose workboat. After conducting very thorough research, I inspected a vessel with them in the Caribbean. Having priced up all delivery options, however, and based on our deep knowledge of the market, we ended up securing a very competitive newbuild vessel out of Europe. Our innovative approach resulted in the client getting exactly what he sought with an extremely attractive delivery cost – he was so pleased he also bought a sister vessel!
In another memorable engagement, we assisted the owners in selling a flattop barge from the South Coast of the UK to a Buyer on the Thames. We arranged the pre-purchase survey for buyers, the tow from the South Coast to the mouth of the Thames, and the taking over of the tow by a Thames-based tug. I also joined the crew for the tow up the Thames to the barge’s new home, which was a real highlight, as I was involved in every step of the process.
Our aim is to make our clients’ lives easier, not just offering them exactly what they are looking for based on our extensive market knowledge, but facilitating the whole transaction smoothly.
How do you see the global environmental and decarbonisation objectives affecting vessel markets over the next few years?
These will undoubtedly have a big impact on our sector. Managing vessels with a 30 to 40-year lifespan against such a rapidly changing regulatory and technological backdrop is a huge challenge. This is especially true in vessels such as workboats which can lack space in the engine room to retrofit mitigating solutions. Consequentially, residual values are likely to suffer.
As such we are doing a lot of work with clients to review their fleets’ efficiency and structure, helping them to future proof their businesses.
Do you see the European shipbuilding and manufacturing market remaining competitive against lower prices coming from distant competitors?
The global pandemic has made us pause and think about how and where we source goods from, including vessels. Home grown solutions are coming to the fore, with local production increasingly as prized as the lowest cost supply from abroad.
ESG considerations are also going to be more important in the supply of newbuild vessels over the coming years which may well play a more significant role than pure price alone.
Posted on December 24, 2020
Vessel deliveries demonstrate synergy with Damen Shipyards Group
Five Damen vessels have made their way across the Atlantic Ocean on a unique voyage to Canada. Early this year, Damen Shipyards Group signed a contract with Ontario-based Doornekamp Construction for the delivery of a Shoalbuster 3209. The vessel was formerly part of Damen Marine Services’ charter fleet. What seemed an ordinary ship sale contract was, in fact, just the beginning.
Booking more orders
Shortly after this initial contract, Doornekamp Construction placed on order with Damen for a Stan Pontoon (barge) 7524. It was decided to deliver the vessels with the Shoalbuster, now renamed Amy Lynn D, on her own keel and towing the barge.
Before the vessels began their cross-Atlantic voyage, however, Damen, with the assistance of Alec Laing from ACL Shipbrokers, had booked three more vessel orders in Canada – three Stan Tugs 1205 for two new customers.
When considering the most efficient means of transportation for the vessels, it emerged they could also be towed by the Shoalbuster on board the barge, thus offering the owners of the Stan Tugs 1205 an extremely cost-effective means of delivery for their new vessels.
The shipment left Rotterdam on 27th October. In order to carry out the transportation as quickly as possible, Damen chartered a Shoalbuster from its long-standing client Van Wijngaarden Marine Services to tow the barge to Algeciras where it could meet up with Doornekamp’s Shoalbuster 3209.
A race against the clock
It was important for the vessels to keep their schedule; their only access to the St. Lawrence Seaway being via the Montreal locks. The locks close annually around Christmas and do not reopen until April.
Fortunately, all went smoothly. The first two Stan Tugs 1205 were delivered to the client, Dominion, on 9th December in Halifax. The remaining tug was delivered on the 15th December in Montreal and, finally after a voyage covering 4,700 nautical miles, Amy Lynn D and the barge passed through the locks in the direction of Picton, Ontario and her new owners, Doornekamp Construction, arriving on 18th December.
The recent CETA trade agreement between the European Union and Canada meant that the shipment faced considerably reduced import duties. This agreement ensures Damen customers in the region of easier, most cost-efficient access to vessels in the future.
Confronting complexity with collaboration
Damen sales manager Jurriaan Daams said, “This has been an interesting process and one that demonstrates the synergy within the Damen Shipyards Group. It’s actually quite a complex process shipping multiple vessels to different clients on a single shipment like this. However, applying the synergy within our organisation we were able to get everything done in-house. For example, the commercial process was assisted by Damen Trading, the barge were docked at Damen Verolme, the Shoalbuster at Albwardy Damen in Sharjah and the Stan Tugs at Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld before sailing, the towing wire and bridle were supplied by AKF and the tow carried out by Damen Marine Services.”
11 Dec 2020 by Martyn Wingrove
The Canadian workboat owner has expanded its fleet with two multipurpose tugs from Damen Shipyards Halifax, Nova Scotia-headquartered Dominion Diving needed extra capacity for the services it provides shipping in the region including pilot transfer, towage, line handling and dredge support.
The company turned to their regular broker ACL Shipbrokers in its search for the optimal vessels for these operations in eastern Canadian ports.
Dominion was looking for IMO Tier II vessels with specific low emissions and high power for multipurpose operations in Canada and ACL identified two secondhand Damen Stan tug 1205 design that met their criteria. This design of vessel has 447 kW of power, producing a bollard pull of 9.5 tonnes.
This is up to triple the average current bollard pull in vessels of equivalent length and type in Canada, said Dominion managing director Robin Lohnes.
“Dominion’s fleet is not only painted green, we are going green with emissions reductions while increasing vessel output power,” Mr Lohnes told Tug Technology & Business.
ACL Shipbrokers worked closely with Damen Shipyards to offer two of these high bollard pull multipurpose vessels at a competitive price, ex-yard. Damen co-ordinated transport of these vessels – Dominion Rumbler and Dominion Enforcer – on a barge to Halifax at the end of November and early in December 2020.
These vessels will be used for North Atlantic all-weather, 24-hour harbour pilot transfer, scientific ocean research and development support.
They have shallow-water, extreme-duty towing and push boat capabilities and can be used to support dredging and as safety, standby rescue vessels with custom-designed and fixed personnel rescue davit apparatus.
Dominion will also use these vessels for line boat services to post-Panamax tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and cruise liners.
ACL managing director Alec Laing said, “we were tasked with finding small but powerful multipurpose vessels with towing capacity” for Dominion.
“This is exactly how we like to work with clients,” Mr Laing said, “Specific vessel searches where we can use our detailed market knowledge, broad network and imagination to achieve the best possible commercial solution,” he said.
Dominion operates a fleet of eight other multipurpose vessels, including five built for tug operations, personnel transfer, diving support and towing – Halmar, Dominion Phoenix, Dominion Bearcat, Big Steel and Roseway.
It operates multicat Dominion Warrior, Canada’s first Eurocarrier type vessel, supporting oceanographic survey, diving and towage and two vessels supporting hydrographic survey and diving – Dominion Pursuit and Dominion Victory.
Dominion Rumbler and Dominion Enforcer were unloaded on 7 December. Also on the barge for delivery to Dominion was another tug, Saint Georges, which is destined for Quebec owners. These tugs were towed across the Atlantic on barge Jacob Joseph C by 2013-built oceangoing tug Amy Lynn D.
This Shoalbuster 3209 design tug was working in the Middle East under name of MSC Allianz Explorer in January 2020, but changed its name when it was sold to Ontario-based Doornekamp. It will be mobilised after this tow to the Wolfe Island area to operate in eastern Lake Ontario.
Rotterdam hosted a successful ETA 2nd Autumn Conference
ETA 2nd Autumn Conference was a big success with more than 100 attendants representing the towage industry and its suppliers. The event gathered ETA full and associate members and stakeholders from the maritime and logistics sectors. The presentations and debates focused on successful business models in these two industries. The panellists analysed the current situation of the European towage sector and the necessary steps it will have to take in order to adapt to the disruptive changes posed by digitalization, emissions reductions and the impact of megaships.
Arnstein Eknes (DNV GL) described the disruptive impact digitalization shall have in the towage industry. Mr Eknes advocated for a smart use of digital technologies as the best way to remain competitive while reducing emissions and increasing the safety of operations. But he insisted on the necessity to adapt these IT technology to each towage company needs in order to obtain the best results.
Marten van den Bossche, (Ecorys) analysed shipping industry future from a maritime business management perspective. His presentation focused on the impact of shipping lines and megaships and how sectors like port towage are coping with the big changes posed by these business trends. Furthermore, Mr. van den Bossche summarized the necessary measures to maintain the European towage industry global leadership.
Ewout Mante (IT consultant) gave a pretty enthralling presentation on the disruptive effects of digitalization in our societies and economies. Mr Mante described how digital technologies and business models are radically changing competitive dynamics across industries and advocated for a more creative, flexible and heterodox management as the best way to face these disruptive changes.
Alec Laing (ACL Shipbrokers) moderated the Conference and gave an overview of the European towage market current situation and an analysis of the main issues affecting its competitiveness. Furthermore, Mr Laing outlined his views on how the sector shall look like in the next decades predicting accelerated changes and the need for governmental action.
During the event, Ecorys presented its report on the Economic impact of the European Towage sector which shall be soon published on the ETA website.
The ETA Secretariat thanks all participants and speakers for their attendance in a successful 2nd Autumn Conference. ETA is looking forward to organizing new events in order to engage and enrich the debates on the future of shipping.
We were asked by Tug & OSV magazine to comment on the changing role of shipbroking in this increasingly digital age.
Alec Laing, shipbroker and MD of London based specialist port tug and workboat brokers, ACL Shipbrokers Ltd, looks at how the broker/owner relationship is responding to changes and developments in the industry as we approach a new decade.
Recently, I moved house and during this process, the benefits of using an intermediary were really highlighted to me. We were letting our property and renting elsewhere. Within only a few days, we had 12 interested tenants lined up to view our house and a week later, the place was let. These benefits can be seen with shipbrokers: we find and pool interest in vessels, helping to make markets and close sales or charters.
As with vessel sale and purchase or chartering, shipbrokers act as facilitators who can in effect create competition and drive a marker for the asset in question, and its sale or use. And shipbrokers, unlike estate agents, have more flexibility to sell or charter these movable assets in different markets and regions.
Over the past decade, these has been much debate in the industry around the relevance of intermediaries as the digital revolution picks up pace. For the simpler “vanilla” transitions, intermediaries’ usefulness may well be in question. However, in a more specialist and dynamic environment, the human elements is still paramount.
More information than ever is available online but this is generally common knowledge by the time it reaches the internet. Some listings are really just advertising, seeking to raise brand awareness and catch the attention of readers or search engine spiders. Returning to the property analogy, real estate portals that advertise properties from multiple sources undoubtedly play a vital part in any search but these tend merely to facilitate an introduction of the buyer or tenant to a go-between. They do not replace the intermediary.
If you have ever had to look really hard for detailed specialist knowledge online, you will know how often you can be disappointed. This is particularly true for tugs and workboats, both of which are very niche markets. Every owner or operator is different. Each works in a unique environment with local market forces driven by cultural and geographical conditions. While an algorithm may able to speed up the process of identifying an owner who has a particular vessel type in their fleet, it is only through human interaction that the subtleties of each specific situation are understood. Trust is paramount in a broker/owner relationship and is a currency which takes time and effort to build and maintain.
“Trust is paramount in a broker/owner relationship and is a currency which takes time and effort to build and maintain”
The abundance of information allows your broker to spread their net more widely, enabling them to bring to bear the more discerning research and analysis: they can cut through the “noise” in the market. This is, again, where the personal element comes in. Making and maintaining contact, gathering information, assessing and discussing: this is where the human element really comes into its own.
Shipbrokers’ commission is almost always paid on a “no cure, no pay” basis, which ensures the alignment of a broker’s interests with their client’s. This is true for sale, purchase or charter. As market makers, the saving made by using a broker almost always outweighs any commission paid to them for their work.
As the broker is not directly linked to vessel(s) in a deal, this distance allows them to create competition in the market and assist with the negotiations. They are often called upon to guide their client on the specific market rates and trends – which can be dynamic, to say the least. Many of these features of a broker’s role have not been changed by digitalization.
In sale and purchase, owners who do not buy and sell regularly could be completely out of touch with the market, from current price levels to the latest developments in technology above and below deck. Even owners who trade vessels can benefit from an additional perspective on the market or introduction outside their network.
Likewise, a charterer who has a trusted broker can reply on them to be their eyes and ears in the market, guiding them on rates, and looking for opportunities on their behalf in home markets or further afield.
As a tug and workboat broker, we see “the twenties” as a time of real opportunity. There are a number of regulatory changes which will have a direct impact on the tug and workboat markets. Emphasis on the environmental impact of operating will also shape the industry in the coming decade. Brokers can help navigate through these times of change, especially in niche markets.
An owner, operator or end user who chooses not to utilize the services of a high-quality shipbroker is missing an opportunity, even in this increasingly digital age.
Here’s a link to the Tug & Osv online magazine publication:
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