d’Amico International Shipping’s new chief executive, Antonio Carlos Balestra di Mottola, has been well-prepared to run Italy’s only listed product tanker company.

For eight years, he has worked as understudy to his stepfather, Paolo d’Amico, being groomed for the top job.

That relationship took centre stage last week when his 69-year-old stepfather handed the reins to his former chief financial officer.

The move marks a coming of age for Balestra di Mottola, who turns 50 in December, while keeping management in the d’Amico family hands.

Talking to TradeWinds for the first time as CEO, Balestra di Mottola praised his stepfather’s “very long and successful career” spanning 50 years in shipping. Paolo d’Amico will remain as chairman.

“He’s probably less linked to the day-to-day than he used to, but from a strategic perspective, he’s still going to be there,” Balestra di Mottola said.

His appointment as CEO was a decision of continuity by the management, as he has been with the company for such a long time.

Balestra di Mottola — known as Carlos — says his ambition will be to manage the company as well as the previous generations.

That will present challenges due to the decarbonisation of the sector, which d’Amico International is addressing by modernising its product tanker fleet.

The son of Paolo d’Amico’s Brazilian wife Noemia, Balestra di Mottola entered shipping 21 years ago.

His earlier career was working in investment banking in the London and New York offices of Lehman Brothers and Banco Brascan, a Brazilian bank specialising in mergers and acquisitions.

He remained in finance in Italy, helping to oversee d’Amico interests with financier Fabrizio Vettosi’s Venice Shipping & Logistics from 2010 onwards.

“That too was fun. d’Amico was a sponsor of his fund, so we had invested quite a big ticket,” Balestra di Mottola said.

d’Amico International Shipping chief executive Carlos Balestra di Mottola took over from Paolo d’Amico, who will remain chairman. Photo: DIS

“I was following that for the d’Amico group for a number of years before I joined as a CFO of d’Amico International Shipping eight years ago.”

Since 2016, the increasing responsibilities means he has no time for hobbies — including water polo — something he still considers “a great sport”.

Instead, more of his time is devoted to the challenges facing the fleet of Milan-listed, Monte Carlo-based d’Amico International.

Last week, it signed contracts for four 75,000-dwt “Eco” LR product tankers for delivery at the end of 2027.

The orders, worth $232.2m, with China’s Jiangsu New Yangzi Shipbuilding, will lift d’Amico International’s presence in the LR1 segment to 10 modern vessels.

“So it’s not like an aggressive move to grow the fleet, but it’s one to try and keep a modern competitive fleet, basically, at this stage,” the new CEO said.

“And we have of course the financial strength to do so. We have a very strong balance sheet and the outlook for the market is still very good for the coming years. So we were happy to make this investment.”

The newbuildings will probably serve as fleet renewal as older vessels are divested in the coming years.

We have a very strong balance sheet and the outlook for the market is still very good

— Antonio Carlos Balestra di Mottola

The company recently sold the 47,200-dwt Glenda Melanie (built 2010) and has five other vessels built in 2011 and 2012 that are likely to be offloaded. That leaves it with 34 double-hulled product tankers, most of which are MRs and handysizes, focused on the transportation of refined products.

“Of course, the environment we are in right now is one which is very challenging,” Balestra di Mottola said.

“It’s one where things are changing very fast as we are faced with the energy transition and the issues of decarbonisation.

“So we have to focus also on the ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance] aspects of the business and on how all of this is affecting our main core business.”

He acknowledges that there will be a lot of challenges ahead, “which maybe shipping wasn’t confronted with to the same extent in the past as what it is confronted with today”.

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