Norwegian shipping magnate, Lars T Ugland, and his wife, Geraldine, moved to the Island last September following the establishment of his latest venture, LT Ugland Bulk (IOM) Ltd. The new company has three 58.400 dwt Supramax bulk carriers being built under the Isle of Man flag in China's Tsuneishi shipyard near Shanghai. Each worth around US$50 million at current market prices, the carriers are due for delivery in November 2009 and January and October 2010 respectively.
One of the vessels, 'Atlas Manx', is destined for long-term charter to Danish Atlas Shipping, and 'Geraldine Manx' on a similar charter to Lauritzen Bulkers. The third vessel has not yet been chartered out. The three Isle of Man flagged Supramaxes are among nine new ships ordered by Ugland from China last year.
'My family have been working with Tsuneishi Shipbuilding for around 30 years,' Lars explained, 'We have built 60 to 70 vessels from the same Japanese privately owned yard in Japan and in the Philippines. We are the yard's greatest client and the first foreign owner to build at their new yard in China. It's quite natural to go back to them.'
While few industries are immune from the global credit squeeze, shipping seems to be faring better than most: 'In the first three months of this year there were 50 percent fewer shipping loans granted by the world's biggest ship financiers compared to the same period in 2007. But the squeeze has not yet affected the shipping market in any noticeable way. The main reason for this is that the booming economies of China and India are continuing to drive the locomotive forward. Their business is compensating for the downturn in the USA, which was formerly the biggest player in the market.' China's ship builders had orders for 14 million CGT in 2007, accounting for 50 percent of the world's total.
The new Isle of Man operation is a tonnage supplier to well-established operators of Supramax bulk carriers. As such, it out-sources corporate management, chartering, supervision and technical management. The company aims to provide the same service to various other sizes of bulk carriers in the future. The company also works on sales and acquisitions.
It's no exaggeration to say that ships run in the family's DNA. Lars comes from a long line of distinguished owners, builders, charterers and managers - his father, JJ, is still at the helm of the family business in Norway. Ugland is world renowned in global shipping and Lars' involvement as chairman, director or board member of the various companies has equipped him with knowledge of the industry that is second to none.
The company's new website sums up its traditional approach to business and the values that this encapsulates: 'From tug boats to barges, anchor handlers, crane ships, product tankers, bulk carriers and the most technically advanced shuttle tankers, Lars has been involved in their construction, management, chartering, operation, sale and purchase throughout his career. With his experience comes a deep personal commitment to continuing his family's fine traditions of integrity and sound judgement, together with an unflinching drive and motivation for the continued success of the company that bears his name.'
The choice of the Isle of Man as an operational base is a further manifestation of the company's commitment to business quality. Safety and environmental issues come high on the agenda, in particular support for guidelines set out by the International Maritime Organisation to promote cleaner seas.
Best choice for relocation
The couple had considered Switzerland and Jersey before settling on the Isle of Man for their new home. The Island's £100,000 personal tax cap to attract entrepreneurial investment and so further stimulate the Manx economy was a major consideration when set alongside the Isle of Man zero tax regime for business and other obvious operational benefits. But the Isle of Man's shipping industry was ultimately the determining factor.
'The primary reason was the fact that the Isle of Man has a thriving shipping industry with ship owners, managers, charterers and an active shipping association. I felt there would be a real shipping community – and I know now I made the right decision.
'What is so fantastic is that the government really sets out to see what it can do for you and your business – rather than the other way round, which can often be the case. The high standard of the Island's IT services, both in terms of quality and capacity, was also a major attraction for the new company. But there are so many positive things to say - it's a beautiful Island, very safe with little crime. All of these things add up.'
'We really love living in the Isle of Man,' adds Geraldine. 'The scenery is beautiful and there are wonderful walks. It's also very central for travel, as we have three daughters in Norway and a son and daughter and their families in England. Everyone is so friendly – and the government has really put itself out to make life as easy as possible for Lars' business settling in. 'It was particularly a great honour for us to be among the official guests at this year's Tynwald Day ceremony. In fact, we were included in three whole days of very enjoyable events and celebrations.'
The couple have also been fascinated by the Island's Viking heritage and its strong historic links with Norway, especially the many place-names that have strong links to Norway such as 'Snaefell and Langness.
It is abundantly clear that the couple are genuine in their delight for their new Island home – and feel they have only 'scratched the surface' of all the attractions the Isle of Man has to offer.
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