"Exciting Times" Ahead for OceanConnect Marine in 2017: Rose

Tuesday February 14, 2017

This year is going to be a year of change and growth for OceanConect Marine (OCM). The player that already has a presence in virtually every aspect of the bunker market imaginable - be it physical, broking, trading, or online - has now been handed a mandate to grow from parent Glencore

"These are exciting times for OCM," says Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Rose, who recently talked to Ship & Bunker about the company's plans for the year ahead.

"OCM is a well-known name in the bunker procurement space, it has been around for a long time and is well respected. However, its identity is somewhat complex in that it is seen as different things to different people – depending on who you talk to, we are either seen as a trader, a broker, a physical supplier, a cargo trader or bunker auctioneer," says Rose.

OCM is, in fact, all these the things and more. And while Rose says this "multi-product strategy" has served its shareholders well for almost two decades, the company believes that the time for change and growth is now.

Indeed, this is something Rose has been working towards since he joined OCM last October.

"In the relatively short time that I have been with the company, we have been working on a number of initiatives to build on the company's strong core that has seen us servicing some of the most demanding vessel operators, such as oil majors and national oil companies, for decades. This has been a holistic process that has involved examining everything from our core customer value proposition through to internal systems, business operations and corporate image," he says.

"For example, we note that many trading companies globally promote their 'global reach' by having several international offices, but these organisations can start to behave as a collection of misaligned franchises if their branches don't support each other and fully leverage their positions in local supply and customer markets. I have been working very closely with OCM's Managing Directors to homogenise our approach to many things on a global scale whilst constantly promoting the 'one global team' ethos. 

"Whilst we have several offices, we see the fact that they all work together 'as one' as a key differentiator that will continue serve us well as we approach business in the next decade. This also helps to drive efficiency and supports a flatter and more inclusive internal structure."

As many readers will already appreciate, OCM is one of several Glencore entities with interests in oil trading, shipping, and supply, and Rose says one aspect of the changes ahead includes exploring several areas of mutual cooperation.

"We are actively working with Glencore now to identify and utilise elements of the wider group that benefit us.

"To many outsiders, the most obvious business synergy would appear to be with Chemoil, which operates as a completely separate supply business.  However, this is just one element and we are also now working closely with another Glencore subsidiary named Inatech, which is in the process of implementing a cloud based end-to-end bunker trade and supply management system for us. This will neatly capture all of OCM's diverse revenue streams in one place and dramatically enhance our efficiency as we move forward."

A Watershed Year

Last year was arguably a watershed year for the bunker industry.

The 2014 collapse of OW Bunker lead to a patchwork of recruitment and acquisitions that resulted in success and failure in varying degrees, and by the end of 2016 the strain of struggling shipping markets and reduced bunker demand had seemingly put the bunker industry at tipping point.

"The truth is a lot of people have been hired to deal with a volume that's no longer there," is how the CEO of a well-known bunker company explained things Ship & Bunker last year following announcements from several companies that they were undergoing restructuring.

The question is, of course, how do OCM's new ambitions fit into this brave new world of bunkering?

"OCM has been somewhat contrarian in its approach to business in recent years. After the collapse of OW, OCM did not embark on the 'firesale' resourcing opportunity as seen by many at the time. Instead, it has benefitted in a much more subtle but valuable way – the OW collapse served to educate the industry about the dangers of receivables financing practices conflicting with the maritime lien, and as buyers have become better informed about the financial viability of their supply chain, they realise that OCM is one of the few traders that remains in the market doesn't pledge its receivables to banks," says Rose.

"This, combined with significant legacy volume and the fact that we are owned by a FTSE 100 listed commodities giant has really underlined a value proposition that is unique in the sector, and we have benefitted because of this."

The end result? Rose says that today, OCM's global commercial team remains "relatively lean overall" and they are looking to grow, not trim their headcount.

"We can look forward to bringing in some key commercial people over the next 12 months as we continue to build on our attractive customer value proposition," he says.

"To put things in perspective, in the last three months we have started a new trading location in Athens and installed a new commercial team in Singapore. We will be adding more people throughout this year in other locations."

Despite the growth ambitions, Rose says OCM will always remain relatively conservative in its approach to recruitment: "We deliberately take our time over the process and don't make speculative 'punts' on personnel," he says.

"We have some of the most experienced, customer focused traders in the market, and we never intend to dilute this crucial resource as we bring in new talent."