Improving our service offering, penetrating bigger markets and aligning local resources spells growth for Svitzer Americas.

Although Svitzer Americas stretches from Chile to Canada, with multiple countries and a lot of distance in between, it has always been a small region within Svitzer in terms of operating profit. Commercially successful, with growth of more than 20% a year, region, as Managing Director Martin Helweg puts it, had never quite been able to break into the “big league” of Svitzer Europe and Svitzer Australia. A situation that three years ago sparked the determination to improve performance through restructuring the organisation and by fine-tuning a wide range of measurables, from technical performance to safety standards. 

These efforts are beginning to pay off. Last year the Americas region recorded the strongest EBITDA improvement in Svitzer and posted the highest scores in the company on all other measurables – from employee engagement and technical standards to safety – except growth. “You could say that we are in the harvest season, reaping the rewards of groundwork laid down previously,” says Martin. “We expect to see growth this year to $40 million EBITDA, double what it was just three years ago.” 

The key to continued improvement is to focus not just on volume of new contracts won but on bigger markets, which offer contracts that promise growth over time. We aretargeting several markets for increased attention. In 2015, the main focus has been on Brazil, Mexico and Canada. So far, Svitzer Americas has been very successful in Canada with two new contracts, one in Port Cartier and one in Baffin Island. “Winning of first the Port Cartier contract shortly followed by two fit-for-purpose ice-class vessels in Baffinland has been a win-win for both Svitzer crews and Svitzer Canada,” says Doug Birch, Svitzer’s Chief Engineer on the Point Chebucto.

With the acquisition of the Brazilian harbour towage operator Transmar Serviços Maritimos, Svitzer has also established a footprint in Brazil. This is the first step for Svitzer into the Brazilian towage market and is part of our strategic objective of growing in emerging markets. We plan to turn full attention to the Mexican market later in the year.

These recent successes stem largely from a decision made 18 months ago to increase local presence by ensuring that local operations have all-around stand-alone capability, giving them the ability to manage their own contract negotiations. “You can’t win contracts from a regional head office or Copenhagen alone,” says Martin. “It sounds simple – even obvious – but the challenge is actually to do it.” The most important change was to empower our commercial colleagues on the ground by ensuring back-office independence, instead of relying on commercial resources in a regional office. This kind of local presence makes it easier to act quickly and satisfy customer needs. 

Success is not a given in any of these markets. Competitors throughout the region have very high standards and many have been in place for a century or more. In many areas, crewing can be challenging, as there is often not a large pool of experienced people to draw on. We frequently face serious training challenge, which is why Svitzer Americas has established a regional training facility in the Bahamas. “Most recently, we sent eight Brazilian captains there for training. The group’s enthusiasm was summed up by Marcus Silveira, Master of the tug ECO OCTO. “We needed to be brought up to  speed with Svitzer standards,” he says, “and the simulator training is a great way of learning the way a global towage company operates”.

With a record of strong recent growth, a solid strategy for increasing local presence and success in new markets, it looks as if Svitzer America’s big-league debut is about to take place.

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