UK tanker owner James Fisher has moved quickly to find a replacement for chief executive Eoghan O’Lionaird.

Three days ago, the London-listed marine services group revealed the boss intended to step down once a successor had been appointed.

On Friday, the company announced it is bringing in Jean Vernet to the role from 5 September.

Vernet was most recently CEO at Smiths Group’s largest division, the mechanical seals maker John Crane.

O’Lionaird will remain at James Fisher until 13 June 2023 to ensure a smooth transition.

Chairman Angus Cockburn thanked the outgoing CEO for his service and “considerable contribution”.

“The group has an experienced management team which is tackling the challenges faced by the business and the board believes that a solid business will emerge to build on the opportunities offered by the energy transition,” he added.

Cockburn said directors are committed to its strategy of driving recovery in revenue and profitability, exiting non-core businesses and reducing debt this year.

O’Lionaird said it had been a privilege to run the company and help steer it through one of the most challenging periods in its history as Covid-19 struck.

“I am proud of what we have achieved on setting course to become a purpose-led, values-driven company, committed to serving all our stakeholders, and I’m confident that the group’s best days lie ahead,” he said.

Experienced executive

The Ireland-born former software executive took the top job in October 2019 after Nick Henry left.

Vernet has considerable experience working in the offshore energy sector in the UK and around the world.

He has an engineering degree and spent a decade in financial roles with US energy services giant Schlumberger.

Vernet was also director of risk at miner Rio Tinto’s Canadian unit, Alcan.

Cockburn said: “I am delighted to welcome Jean to James Fisher. He is an internationally experienced business leader with extensive energy sector knowledge.”

Fisher controls a fleet of 20 operational vessels, mostly handysize product tankers, but also three offshore vessels.

It has two 6,100-dwt tankers on order at China Merchants Jinling Shipyard for delivery this year and in 2023.

The company lost £28.2m ($35m) in 2021 in a period hampered by the pandemic. But this was down from £57.3m in 2020.