Penfield Marine | Penfield taps Hong Kong for aframax pool partners
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by Joe Brady · Published by Tradewinds in Tankers

Penfield Marine partners Eric Haughn and Tim Brennan with newly recruited business development director Glenn Gronseth(from left) Penfield Marine partners Eric Haughn and Tim Brennan with newly recruited business development director Glenn Gronseth

Connecticut-based Penfield Marine is opening a new front in the Hong Kong market with the addition of two new pool members.

Valles Steamship and Wah Kwong Maritime Transport have agreed to enter one tanker each into Penfield’s growing aframax pool, Penfield founders Tim Brennan and Eric Haughn told TradeWinds in an interview near the company’s offices in Fairfield.

They were joined by Glenn Gronseth, who has been hired as Penfield’s business development director after 28 years at Connecticut pool operator Heidmar, where he most recently was managing director for projects.

Brennan and Haughn are both former Heidmar executives and have known Gronseth for more than 25 years.

Penfield is expected to use Gronseth’s market experience and contacts to further boost its pools fleet, particularly on the aframax side, which is still in a growth phase, Brennan explained.

“We’re not really interested in growing our panamax pool. We have 29 ships and 13 partners and we’re happy with that,” he said.

“On the aframax side, we ended 2017 with seven ships and four partners, and now we’re at 10 ships and six partners.

Chief executive Tim Brennan says 'We’re looking for slow, controlled growth.We expect to add another half-dozen ships by the end of the year. '

“We think it ultimately could become a little bit bigger than the panamax pool because it’s a bigger market.”

Both pools are concentrating on crude trade in the Atlantic.

“By narrowing the focus, the two pools provide synergies in terms of customers and contracts,” Brennan said.

And now Penfield is beginning to reap the rewards of its efforts in the Hong Kong market, a focus for Giovanni Gavarone, managing director of its London office.

Penfield’s progress

Valles, a Hong Kong-headquartered shipowner, entered the 107,000-dwt Seanostrum (built 2002) in mid-May. Wah Kwong, also Hong Kong based, is expected to deliver the 112,000-dwt Unity Venture (built 2017) in June.

Gavarone explained in a telephone interview that Penfield began its efforts when he visited Hong Kong for the first time in September 2014.

“I really liked what I saw,” Gavarone said. “We started developing relationships and one thing led to another.”

In April 2015, Penfield chartered in a tanker from Valles — the 105,700-dwt Seapacis (built 2005). It was the first ship Valles had fixed out to an operator rather than an oil company, he said.

“I think it will certainly be a growth area for us and we admire the values of the local shipping community,” Gavarone said.

“We have been made to feel welcome there from the beginning, even before we were doing any business. And now, two of the most respected members of that community have trusted us with their ships. We’re hopeful this will lead to more business with other local owners.”