Schulte Group receives approval for PRONAV acquisition

The Hamburg-based Schulte Group has received clearance by the German Federal Cartel Office for the acquisition of the LNG specialist PRONAV.

With this strategic move, the leading family-owned ship owner and manager continues to increase its capabilities and capacity in the growing LNG market. Through the acquisition of PRONAV, the Schulte Group has increased the number of vessels under full management in its third-party management fleet by six additional LNG carriers (LNGC). At present, the Schulte Group provides full management for three LNGC and crew management for 21 LNGC. Five LNGCs with a capacity of 173,000-174,000m3 each and one Gas Supply Vessel (GSV) are set to join the fleet in 2018 and 2019, which will bring the number of the fully managed LNG fleet to 15.

According to Clarkson Research Services Limited, the trade volume of LNG increased by more than 250% between 2000 and 2017. At the beginning of this year, the global LNG fleet stood at 506 vessels with analysts expecting the fleet to reach the 600-vessel mark in summer 2019.

Ian Beveridge, Chief Executive Officer of Schulte Group, said: “With the acquisition of PRONAV we further enhance the Group’s LNG expertise and strengthen our position as the third-party LNG ship manager of choice. The Schulte Group is well positioned to support the growing demand in this specialised industry sector and we are constantly striving to develop our service portfolio further.”

The Schulte Group marked its entry into LNG ownership in 2014. A 174,000m³-LNGC is currently being built at Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea and shall be delivered end of 2018. It will be time chartered for a minimum of 15 years to a Japanese trading house to carry liquified gas. Plan approval was undertaken by Schulte Marine Concept and the LNGC will be fully managed by BSM.

BSM has a strong track record in the LNG sector. In 2016, the company signed an operational partner agreement with Dreifa Energy Limited, a specialist who offers medium scale floating regasification solutions, to materialise the Dreifa floating LNG regas solution and ensure reliable and cost-efficient access to energy.

In the same year, BSM entered into a joint venture agreement with Babcock International in response to the growing demand for LNG as a marine fuel and formed Babcock Schulte Energy (BSE). The goal of this joint venture is to realise projects in the small-scale LNG (ssLNG) segment, support the growth of LNG as a marine fuel and to develop scale in the ssLNG and bunkering sectors.

Analysts expect the use of LNG as a marine fuel to grow over the next 10 years as it provides a lower emissions alternative to diesel and heavy fuel oil. The IMO has set a global limit for sulphur in fuel oil used onboard ships of 0.50% mass by mass from 1st January 2020, and EU MRV regulations referring to carbon dioxide emission are increasingly being tightened. Against this background, it is expected that LNG as a clean fuel is going to play a major role in the shipping industry.

Angus Campbell, Corporate Director of Energy Projects, BSM, elaborates: “Just as the LNG fleet, the global LNG fuelled fleet is steadily increasing. One of the most pressing challenges is how suppliers of transfer solutions meet the need to develop the infrastructure that goes with it. This is why Babcock Schulte Energy has developed the largest dedicated Gas Supply Vessel, which incorporates the patent pending FGSV0 technology.”