July 27th 2017
From the office in Dubai, Christoffer Berg Lassen is reviewing the strategy at Danish bunker company Dan‑Bunkering.
He has served as CEO of the company since May this year, when he replaced Henrik Zederkopf, who is now working on a new venture for parent company Bunker Holding.
“My job is to develop this group. The vision for Dan-Bunkering is definitely to grow even bigger and more profitable. So I’m looking at ways to develop in terms of employees, offices, acquisitions, joint ventures and other elements,” says Lassen in an interview with ShippingWatch in relation to the company’s annual report 2016/2017. In the past fiscal year, Dan-Bunkering’s revenue grew by almost USD 200 million to USD 717 million, while the net result came to USD 6.1 million. As for potential new business, Lassen points to fields such as supplies, agency, or lubricants, areas in which Dan-Bunkering is currently active on a small scale. It is necessary to look at all possible links in the supply chain where new business can be made. Lassen acknowledges that this does sound like keeping many balls in the air. “But with a company such as Dan-Bunkering, which has this many offices, is big and financially strong, it’s easy to keep many balls in the air. It’s also a matter of hitting the right balls. There are many ways to get even closer to the top.” Lassen has, as chief executive, spearheaded a significant growth of Glander International Bunkering in recent years – another subsidiary of Bunker Holding. Glander has grown from 6-7 employees to currently 90 employees spread across offices in 12-13 countries. So the new Dan-Bunkering CEO is not unfamiliar with business expansion. “For the coming year I expect us to improve revenue by at least 10 percent,” he says.
Has laid off employees
The fiscal year 2016/2017 was also a year of layoffs at Dan-Bunkering. A total 45 employees have disappeared from the offices around the world, and the company’s staff today counts 81 compared to 126 last fiscal year. The layoffs have mainly happened in the accounting departments, where Dan-Bunkering has, during boom periods, perhaps hired a bit too many people, explains Lassen. “We’ve of course adjusted our business to our surroundings, which have made similar adjustments. But we’ve mainly been able to optimize elements beyond our core business. We’ve now cut closer to the bone in order to get back to what it’s all about, bunker trading,” he says. Dan-Bunkering has, for instance, combined the accounting and billing divisions for the offices in Monaco, Copenhagen, and Middelfart, all of which is now being done in Denmark. Comparing the fewer employees with the results in the annual report, the development shows that Dan-Bunkering’s employees have been working harder, explains Lassen. “It’s remarkable that we’ve increased our revenue by USD 200 million. This is not just driven by bunker prices wen looking at the average oil price for the year. We’ve been out conquering market shares from our competitors, we’ve been aggressive. We can see that our employees have been working harder and harder. I think it’s impressive that we’ve achieved such a significant growth in revenue with fewer people.”
Breaking the sound barrier
The layoffs in the past year have released funds, which will be invested in, among other elements, new bunker traders.
The CEO points to regions such as China and the Middle East as key growth markets for Dan-Bunkering. The company is currently looking for four traders for its talent program in Dubai as well as two experienced traders. Lassen is currently looking into what kind of growth to pursue in China – whether this should involve more offices or employees. “We have two offices today. It’s a market with strong opportunities for us. I can see that several of our competitors are struggling to break the sound barrier out there, where we actually have a firm grip on the market. There’s a lot of unrealized potential in the market that we can seize. It’s still easy for us to secure new customers. The same applies to the Middle East, which shows a sizeable growth in customers. The EU is more saturated than the Middle East,” says Lassen.
Dr Anthony Comer, Lecturer at the School of Engineering, UL said “Europe’s leadership position in the world shipbuilding industry in value terms is based on its commitment to research, technology innovation and the delivery of high value-added products. In fact, Europe continues to classify the largest proportion of all newly constructed civilian and merchant ships in the world. FIBRESHIP stands out as the first initiative to comprehensively introduce FRP in the construction of larger vessels.”
Dr Ioannis Manolakis, Research Fellow in Composite Materials and IComp Research Coordinator added “The Irish ocean economy is foreseen to benefit directly from the innovations expected from FIBRESHIP in the direction of the realisation of a lightweight composite large-length ship, with expected impacts on ship fuel economy, cargo and passenger capacity and environmental footprint. The positive impact on other established (e.g. marine manufacturing-engineering-construction) and emerging (e.g. marine renewable energy) industries is also expected to be significant further down the line.”
Dr Terry McGrail, IComp Director noted: “This is a significant success for IComp and UL, and a great opportunity to transfer composites expertise and know-how developed at high technology readiness level in UL and IComp in particular to new sectors such as shipbuilding.”