Kim Ullman will wake up on 1 January without a job in shipping for the first time in 45 years.

The chief executive is retiring at the end of the year, after steering Stena-owned tanker company Concordia Maritime through a restructuring that secured its future.

"I hate the word retirement," he told TradeWinds. "I prefer to call it 'some time off'."

So is this the last we will see of the veteran in shipping?

"Who knows? When you're a shipping man, you never know what's around the corner," he replied.

Ullman, born in 1957, had been thinking of stepping back for a while, after a stressful pandemic period trying to secure the rescue deal in appalling markets.

As for the timing of his departure, he said: "I have to admit that I could have picked a better moment to do it — it was probably the worst of the worst."

"I really, really wanted to leave at the top, but this is the lowest possible.

"It seems like even though I'm pretty good at predicting rainbows, you can look for the treasure at the end of the rainbow for a long time."

Never quite what you expect

"You kick the can down the road and say, 'Well, let's wait for the market to pick up and things to happen'. But things don't happen the way you expect them to happen in shipping, it's just the way it is."

Although he started in the maritime industry in 1975, the sector was not on his radar as a child.

"When I was a kid, I wanted to become a farmer, but it didn't work out," he recalled.

"Then in my youth, I wanted to be a professional football player, but that didn't work out either. So I had to settle for shipping."

He has "no plans" for retirement: "A shipping man can only see one day at a time."

"I'm sure I'll find somewhere else to live, probably try another European country to live in, gain some new experiences there, maybe a little board job here and there."

The long-time Stena man admitted it will be strange not going in to the office, but the pandemic has helped him transition into retirement, with all that time spent working at home during lockdowns.

Ullman has spent eight years running Concordia, following his tenure as vice president at group tanker arm Stena Bulk.

He has also been chief executive of Stena LNG and Stena Weco.

Asked about his career highlights, he said: "Let's not go back to the 1970s and 80s. Let's say the first was actually being employed by Stena."

He said the Swedish group has been fantastic to him in every year of his employment.

"I was quite instrumental in redirecting the company into VLCCs," Ullman said.

Tanker deals

His first big deal was to buy two 457,000-dwt ULCCs. The vessels were priced at $23m each and only six or seven years old.

"That was really the start of Concordia. From that, we could put them out on charter to the Saudis and buy another six VLCCs. That whole deal in the late 80s/early 90s, that was quite fun," he said.

Another high point was establishing the relationship between Stena Bulk and Texaco, which turned into the StenTex joint venture, a chartering operation that looked after the oil company's shipping business.

Ullman was the boss there for five years and enjoyed his time living in Houston.

He was also key in putting together the Stena Sonangol suezmax pool.

In addition, he said Stena "had a good go" at LNG shipping and was about to introduce a new company to the public market, based around this business, "but those plans were withdrawn at the last minute".