When the ship management legend Captain Charles Arthur Joseph Vanderperre passed away in September last, doubts were expressed about the future of Univan Ship Management Ltd., the company he had established and nurtured. In just 80 days of having donned the mantle Richard Hext, now in the position of Deputy Chairman and CEO of Univan has already repositioned the company on the fast track with plans to increase the number of vessels under ship manning and management.
Presently on a visit to India he took time off to talk about his strategy and how best he intends to leverage the company’s strengths. “I have never worked under Capt Vanderperre,” he admits. “But I have known him since 1997 when I was a ship owner myself. I find the platform on which Univan stands to be very firm, because Capt Vanderperre selected dedicated people with passion and a zeal for work. I see a lot of growth potential and my immediate strategy is to grow.”
Like Capt Vanderperre who was the first to spot the professionalism, the brain power and work ethic that exists among Indian seafarers, Hext too concurs that Indian seafarers have the professionalism, technical competence and energies for work, which he intends to enlarge upon. He says finding the right people is being done remarkably well at the five Univan offices in India based at Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi and Kolkata. Univan dependence on Indian seafarers is evident from the fact that about two thirds of their floating and on-shore staff is Indian.
He intends to use the present platform to achieve his expansion plans. He sees considerable scope for growth which was not the case way back in 1973 as I. T., management systems, etc did not exist. “I think I can leverage on the use of Information Technology and use it to our advantage for increasing the number of ships under our management,” he avers. “I.T. could help us access information quickly which can be passed on to the superintendents and the management. When it comes to operating tankers, it is the technical competence and professionalism of the Indian officers which I find oil majors are confident with. Half of our fleet of 57 ships is made up of tankers and leveraging on this trait I intend to increase this number.
“For Univan India is our home. Coming to India is one way for ship manning business to improve because it offers a lot of advantage.