Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM) is ready to pour millions of dollars into the establishment of a tanker-focused unit in Greece.

“It will be the most advanced, optimised and digitalised people-focused tanker management service provider worldwide,” chief executive Mark O’Neil told assembled guests and clients at a company event near Athens late on Thursday.

Such outsiders are invited to take a stake in the new venture, to be called the CSM Hellas Tanker Management Centre of Excellence.

“This will be a subsidiary of CSM Greece but 50% of the shareholding will be open to our partners, to our existing clients, any future clients that want to come and join us and to collaborators,” O’Neill said.

O’Neil said talks with shipowners, oil majors, charterers, consultants, cargo providers and technology firms can begin from Friday morning, inviting interested parties to get in touch.

Preparation work is expected to be “a matter of weeks, not months”, O’Neil told TradeWinds on the sidelines of the event.

“By the end of this year, we will have this up and running,” he said.

The idea is to get a wide range of shipping interests on the new company’s board, with a view to spur cooperation and spin-off joint ventures between them.

“We will collaborate together on projects, we will share information and learning, we will learn together with our crews and in the processes and we will improve,” O’Neil said.

The Greek-owned tanker fleet is the world's biggest. Pictured, Almi Tankers’ 315,200-dwt VLCC Almi Atlas (built 2018). Photo: Hyundai Samho

CSM pledged to commit considerable funds to the project, hiring personnel in Greece to be set up in new, dedicated offices with all of CSM’s latest technology tools and gadgets.

“We invested $3m in our office in Saudi Arabia, it will easily be the same amount here,” O’Neil said.

‘Fire in the belly’

The project is a culmination of CSM’s policy to foster joint ventures. The company has struck 26 such agreements in recent years, including with energy majors Total Energies and Saudi Aramco.

It can also be seen as an effort to make inroads into the Greek shipping market, the world’s biggest owning hub.

“The Greek shipping community is only getting stronger and only getting bigger,” O’Neil said.

“I often hear the Greeks don’t like second-party ship management because it divests the operation and the management of the vessels — but they do if it adds value, if they’re part of the process, if they’re part of the partnership,” the CSM boss told the event.

CSM’s announcements are the opening salvo in what is expected to be a busy season of major shipping exhibition Posidonia, which opens its gates next month after a corona-imposed four-year hiatus.

It might be seeking to tap into bullishness in the Greek shipping scene.

With tankers, bulkers and container ships being profitable at the same time for the first time in years, sentiment is flying high in Athens and Piraeus and players are said to be eager to explore new projects and ventures.

“A lot of people have fire in the belly,” one senior shipping executive told TradeWinds during the event.