The ship management sector is heading for another big merger, with Cyprus-based Columbia Shipmanagement and crew management firm Marlow Navigation admitting in a curt announcement Tuesday that they are in talks about a combination of their businesses.
Following private discussions between the companies’ owners and founders Heinrich Schoeller (Columbia) and Hermann Eden (Marlow), both parties are now in advanced negotiations about a merger of equals, they said.
Columbia, formed in 1978 in Limassol and part of the Schoeller Holdings, has around 280 ships under technical management, including Schoeller-owned and third party tonnage.
Marlow Navigation, founded in 1982 also in Limassol, has been focusing primarily on crew management, supplying around 14,000 seafarers to more than 1,000 vessels worldwide.
More recently the company has made significant strides to expand its full technical management division, with close to 80 ships under technical management by the middle of this year. Marlow was also rumoured to be one of the investors that backed the takeover of former German managing owner Reederei Buss by Liberty Blue Group last year.
Columbia has been subject to rising speculation in the German market due to uncertainty over the scale of ship mortgage debt on the Schoeller-owned fleet of container ships and multipurpose vessels. Both companies already co-operate in a joint venture for IT ship management solutions. They said that a merger could unlock further synergies and efficiencies given that both businesses are largely complementary.
A combination of Columbia and Marlow would be the third major merger & acquistion in global ship management within 15 months, following the merger of Anglo-Eastern and Univan in late 2015 and the takeover of Bibby Shipmanagement by market leader V Group in March.
In August 2015, Rickmers Holding and ER Capital dropped plans to merge their ship management operations.