x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Gulf Navigation's new man with a plan

Gulf Navigation has hired a new chief executive that will guide the company through a major fleet acquisition programme.

Gulf Navigation, the region's only publicly traded tanker company, has replaced its chief executive and tasked its new appointment with executing an ambitious five-year growth plan.

Atle Sebjornsen, the incoming chief executive, will be expected to steer the group into spinning-off subsidiary companies with initial public offerings and expanding its fleet of crude oil tankers and chemical carriers.

"Mr Sebjornsen is expected to successfully implement Gulf Navigation's ambitious five-year plan for global growth in the crude oil and chemical transport markets, built on the foundations of a strong home base in the … Gulf," the firm said.

Per Wistoft, who served as chief executive of Gulf Navigation for the past two years, left after coming to the end of his contract, said Abdullah al Shuraim, the chairman.

Under Mr Wistoft the company embarked on its fleet acquisition strategy that is one of the key pillars of its growth plan until 2015.

In January, the company acquired one very large crude carrier (VLCC), the Gulf Eyadah, with capacity to carry 2 million barrels of oil, and said it was in the process of purchasing other VLCCs. "Gulf Eyadah is a milestone of many more to come," the company said at the time.

It also said in the next three years it would receive two additional VLCCs and operate them through a company it was setting up in Saudi Arabia. The company said it would create the venture with GCC partners with a capital of 1.66 billion Saudi riyals (Dh1.62bn).

A public listing would follow, it added.

Yesterday, Gulf Navigation said it would also expand into acquiring Aframax oil tankers capable of handling 120,000 tonnes or less, and vessels to serve the marine offshore markets.

Mr al Shuraim said the board had sought an executive with deep experience in the oil and chemical tanking markets. Previously, Mr Sebjornsen served as an executive at Stolt-Nielsen, the largest chemical transportation firm in the world.

The Norwegian firm is also a joint venture partner with Gulf Navigation in a company called Gulf Stolt Tankers.

Mr Sebjornsen has been hired on a three-year contract with an option to renew for another three years, Mr al Shuraim said.

"It was all done in good order," Mr Wistoft said of the management change. "Sometimes you come to a crossroad and that is what happens."

Mr Wistoft plans to remain in Dubai to work, he said. "First I will take a nice long holiday."