Meet Dennis Williams who, with his wife Maria, owns Amberseas Maritime based at Hampshire Workspace in Winchester.
What do Amberseas do?
Predominantly we are ship managers. We look after the commercial management of ships on behalf of the owners who are groups of investors.
That will involve the operational aspects, the chartering aspects, crew and just recently technical as well. Probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people (laughs) but it’s a quite a lot in the modern world of shipping with all the legislation and Flag State controls.
How does it work in practice?
We may have a client who will say we have a cargo here, be here at such and such a date. We confirm that we can do that, then we go and load the cargo and ship it to wherever they want it to go- that’s the chartering aspect of it.
If we can’t supply a vessel to fulfil a contract, we will go out onto the market and find one, which is where brokering comes in.
What challenges face the business?
Shipping management is very difficult at the present time because the markets are pretty poor. Most investors require the banks. That is the biggest struggle because most banks have pulled out of the shipping industry because the debts are so huge. For example, if you decided to build a new vessel in Holland similar to ours it will cost you 8.5 to 9 million. You can’t hope to return that money to the bank.
How did you get into this business?
We’d been doing it for a number of years for other people and we decided we could do it better. We brought people we knew with us.
What differentiates you from the competition?
We have a very high rating because we are also the DOC (Document Of Compliance) holder, which means we meet the High Standards of the Safety Management systems under the IMO, the standards of the class society which is recognised by the Flag State. Your rating depends on how many checks you’ve had and we have 4.5 stars out of 5. This means we can work with the more prestige clients such as steel or fertiliser companies who require high standards. The Safety as well as condition of the vessels is very important.
Why are your ships not registered in the UK?
When it comes to the shipping side of things the UK is not the best place. For example our vessels are run under the Antigua and Bermuda flag because it costs more money to run under the UK flag. Also Antigua and Bermuda like the UK are on the White List which are the highest Rated flags in relation to Standards.
It’s not obvious that Winchester is a maritime city.
That is personal preference. We started in Southampton but there isn’t what you would expect there from what is historically a maritime city.
We personally moved to Winchester. Then it was more a case of, we work a lot of hours, why do we need to spend two hours getting to and fro? For me it means I can walk in, go home for lunch. Winchester is a lovely city.
What does the future hold?
We’ve been looking at the level of management so we’ve prepared ourselves for that by, for example, taking in the technical aspect of things. There are five of us working for the company ashore now, with 27 Officers and Crew on rotation aboard the vessels. The optimum for us is definitely a third vessel, so we are actively looking to take another under our Management.
To find out more about Ambereseas Maritime, visit amberseas.co.uk