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Bismark breaks through in Papua New Guinea’s shipping market

Domestic and international expansion is on the cards for Bismark Maritime as Papua New Guinea’s shipping sector delivers opportunities for additional players. CEO Jamie Sharp tells Business Advantage PNG of the company’s plans.

Emerging players like Bismark Maritime Ltd can only be a positive for Papua New Guinea’s shipping sector as crucial industries, such as oil and gas, continue to develop, according to the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Sharp.

Over the past seven years, Bismark’s capacity has more than doubled to 13 vessels as demand for its liner and charter services has risen substantially off the back of growth in oil and gas, as well as the mining and food and beverage sectors.

While much of Bismark’s capacity has been utilised between Port Moresby and Lae ports, the wholly PNG-owned company continues to extend its reach to new destinations along the country’s coastline, establishing a well-equipped company in a PNG industry long dominated by Steamships Trading Company Ltd.

‘We’ve managed to break through the traditional shipping monopoly (in PNG) in those places, which is good for everyone,’ Sharp tells Business Advantage PNG.

Strong clientele

In oil and gas, Bismark has provided services to the likes of Talisman Energy and, indirectly, ExxonMobil and Xstrata, while other regular clients have included Coca-Cola Amatil and Nestlé.

Sharp says that Bismark was working towards servicing the complete range of ports in PNG with companies such as these and, hopefully, new clientele.

‘We would really like to continue to improve our profile and image. I think we are still regarded as a fairly small player in PNG but we would like to get more of an international reputation—that’s something we strive for,’ Sharp said.

International scope

Bismark has already started to make its mark internationally, having undertaken charters to or from South-East Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

He believes the PNG Government’s stance towards foreign investment would likely guide its growth, both international and domestically.

‘Things can change quickly here. A lot depends on how stable the government is, especially with a country that relies on foreign investment,’ Sharp says.

‘There’s certainly enough projects in the pipeline, especially in oil and gas, and even with other commodities. We are being optimistic—when they get off the ground, I think we will be in a pretty good position to benefit from them.’

Fuel relief

Sharp expects Bismark to benefit greatly from lower fuel prices as it pursues expansion. However, he says the usual PNG business challenges were impacting Bismark.

‘There are a lot (of challenges) and they aren’t just specific to us,’ Sharp said. ‘Most businesses are feeling it—the escalating costs here, inflation, cost of living, cost of accommodation.

‘There are always issues with productivity on the wharves; comparatively, the costs here moving cargo over the wharves is a lot higher than overseas. With fuel prices going the other way that will certainly help things.’

Sharp is the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the shipping industry, saying that he still regards Bismark as a family business despite its growth, with two generations currently part of the company.