The appointment of a successor has given Claus-Peter Offen the chance to opt for a slightly slower pace of life than he might otherwise have chosen.

He had expected to continue in his role as the head of Germany’s biggest boxship owner for a few more years.

I originally thought I may easily do it for another two or three years so, no problem. But then there are not so often people like Vespermann in the market.

Claus-Peter Offen

But the prospect of recruiting a personal friend to run the Offen Group over the next decade provided the excuse to stand down from the day-do-day management.

And while plans to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary in June have been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, the shipowner will still celebrate a decision to hand the reins of his company to Arnt Vespermann.

It was not what the 77-year-old boxship veteran had originally expected.

“I originally thought I may easily do it for another two or three years so, no problem," said Offen, managing owner and sole shareholder of the Hamburg-based company.

"But then there are not so often people like Vespermann in the market. This is a unique chance because he’s really in the business and has an excellent track record."

Personal friend

Vespermann did a good job at liner operator Hamburg Sud where he was chief executive from 2017 until the end March, Offen said.

But life is said to have changed after Hamburg Sud was taken over by AP-Moller-Maersk in December 2017.

Vespermann had been used to working for a family-run company under the stewardship of the Oetker family, but the demands of working for the larger Danish group were completely different.

“So when he had the chance, we talked about maybe joining another family company. We have good figures and we have a good programme,” Offen said.

This led to a decision to appoint Vespermann to run Offen's company from the beginning of 2022.

A new era

The move comes half a century after Offen, then aged 27, formed his company on 9 June 1971 with the purchase of the 1,965-gt general cargoship Annie Hugo Stinnes (built 1959), which was renamed Holstein.

Over time, he grew the company into what in the early years of the millennium became the world’s largest boxship tonnage provider.

Even today, the Offen Group remains the fifth largest, so questions over the tonnage provider's future have long been a subject of interest.

Arnt Vespermann takes on the role of chief executive of Offen Group from January 2022. Photo: Hamburg Sud

Offen has three children but his eldest son, Claus Oliver, aged 52, has not taken the role for physical reasons, while Offen’s younger son, aged 22, and daughter, aged 25, are still in full-time education.

Therefore, 53-year-old Vespermann was deemed the best option.

“It’s an ideal solution having Arnt at my side and at the helm of the company," Offen said.

"He’s 25 years younger than me and a more digital man than I. And he’s got an excellent network in the industry.”

Big surprise

Vespermann joins a streamlined company that is focused on long-term charters of larger boxships as the market is booming.

The Offen Group hived off its tanker division in 2019 and its bulker division in September.

But it retains a fleet of 38 containerships, mostly in the range of 5,500 teu to 14,000 teu, including ships acquired from the takeover of the Munich-based Conti Group in March 2017.

Some of the smaller containerships sold in recent years would have made money in today’s booming market, but no one saw that coming, Offen said.

“This market development in view of the pandemic crisis is a big surprise to everybody,” he said.

“But we have a good fleet with only the post-panamax ships left, including the Conti ships, here making good money. We could for 10 years do nothing and still have the same good result.

“The ships we’re operating in spot market are doing quite well. But also the good income level of the liner companies is very much in our favour. Because of our long-term commitments, we love to have strong partners.”.

Offen will stay on with his own office in the Hamburg building as chairman of the newly established supervisory board.

He will be joined his 60-year-old chief financial officer Ralf Jung and Offen's eldest son.

He does not rule out the prospect of the younger generation of his family one day taking charge.

But for the next decade or so, Vespermann will bridge the generation gap until they are deemed ready.

Offen Group snapshot

Formerly known as Claus-Peter Offen, the group is a shipowner and manager focused on the containership sector.

Founded: 1971

Headquarters: Hamburg

Leaders: Claus-Peter Offen, founder, sole shareholder and chief executive; Claus Oliver Offen, managing director; Ralf Jung, chief financial officer; Arnt Vespermann, future CEO starting in January 2022

Fleet: 38 containerships, mostly in the range of 5,500 teu to 14,000 teu

Source: Offen Group, TradeWinds