Schulte Group chief executive Ian Beveridge is confident that German investors will return to shipping.

“There's a huge amount of saving in Germany,” he told TradeWinds. “With the right product, you can get them back on the bandwagon.”

“But it will just not be on the same scale that we had before. It will not be the people with a small amount of saving, thinking it’s a sure bet. It will be more serious shipowning partners.”

Schulte has established at least one company designed to attract German capital. It formed Navigo Shipholding early last year in a joint venture with German insurance company DEVK.

It has so far limited its partnership to the one investment partner but the plan is to allow others to participate, said Beveridge.

“With the coronavirus, it’s been difficult to attract more investors,” he said.

“In the current low-interest environment, people will start looking at alternative investments. But dealing with German financial institutions is a slow process. Their risk profile is such that they want the long-term employment, steady cash flow.”

New orders

Newbuildings are among the investments under consideration. Schulte has been talking with investors keen to invest in “vaguely green” shipping projects. But uncertainty over future fuel sources complicates those plans.

“We’re now looking at ordering some ships, but more to hedge our positions,” Beveridge said. “Because as a shipowner, we have a big fleet and we can’t simply for five years do nothing. But, so far, nobody really knows how a future ship should be configured.”

The two ships that make up the Navigo Shipholding portfolio are on long-term charters.

German investors will return, 'but it will not be the same wild west that you had before', says Schulte Group CEO Ian Beveridge. Photo: Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement

One is the Windea Jules Verne (built 2020), a wind-farm service operation vessel with a fixed-rate 10-year charter to General Electric.

The second is the 12,000-cbm semi-refrigerated gas carrier Theresa Schulte (built 2014), which is operated in the Unigas pool.

Beveridge believes the biggest difference with the past is the absence of the German banks.

“Before, people could order and get a verbal confirmation from the bank that they would even finance predelivery instalments with no security.

"That cost the banks and the German taxpayers hundreds of millions. But the structures have changed — it’s simply not possible anymore.”