Harry Banga, genial vice-chairman emeritus of Hong Kong-headquartered resources and commodities group Noble, is considering expanding Fleet Management, the ship management firm he bought for US$75 million from Noble last week.
Banga, who stepped down last June from the day-to-day running of Noble's logistics and steel businesses, said Fleet Management could expand into other shipping-related management operations. This might include the offshore sector - managing vessels such as offshore supply ships and other specialist vessels - which is facing a resurgence of exploration and development activity as a result of high oil prices.
Banga is also looking to grow Fleet Management's crew training facilities with the possibility of a new academy in India. He said it was too soon after the sale was completed - with the share exchange on March 29 - to give more details about the expansion plans. The deal included 13 related companies such as Singapore's Fleet Ship Management, Noble Ship Management, FML Ship Management and Gold Fleet Shipping.
But he said the company could 'move into different ships'. Banga also had initial talks about setting up a new training complex. 'It is on top of the agenda, but we need a lot of internal discussions,' he said. While India was the main focus for the centre, Banga did not rule out China and the Philippines as possible locations. 'It is not feasible to go into all three.'
Banga added that when the 'dust has settled ... in six months we will see the horizon very clearly where Fleet Management is going to be'.
Asked why he acquired the company, Banga said he had been drawn to Fleet Management since recruiting existing managing director Kishore Rajvanshy and setting up the company 16 years ago.
Fleet Management provides third-party ship management services - training and employing crew, operating and maintaining ships on behalf of ship owners.
'It's business as usual. I'm not going to be involved in the day-to-day management. I'll be more like a shareholder adding value rather than an executive adding value,' he said.
'There is no conflict of interest because I'm still a substantial shareholder [in Noble]. And what I do at Fleet has absolutely no conflict with Noble.'
Fleet Management is managing 12 ships - comprising 180,000 deadweight tonne capesize and 92,500 deadweight tonne post-panamax dry bulk cargo ships - owned or chartered by Noble. They include six for which Fleet Management is supervising the construction at shipyards and are to be delivered between 2011 and 2013.
Banga said ship owners have '35 ships committed [to Fleet Management] in the next couple of years', including 30 vessels that are in various stages of construction.
Rumours about the future of Fleet Management, which was founded 16 years ago by Noble to manage its planned fleet of dry bulk cargo ships, had been circulating in shipping circles for about a year. This followed its indictment by a US federal grand jury last April on charges of obstruction, making false statements and failing to keep accurate pollution control records following the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco. The company manages the day-to-day operation and crew of 212 vessels.
Business as usual
Noble sold the ship management firm last week for US$75 million
The number of ships Fleet Management looks after that are owned or chartered by Noble: 12