5. High Seas


Taking the model of advanced German management abroad and extending the post-post war economic miracle to far away regions has been an extensive and exciting experience but it had not led to the financial success OAM had hoped for. While the local trade was growing successfully and the Pool was going steady ahead some of the valuable resources had been tied up in the new ventures. When the shipping Markets collapsed in the mid 80's and contracts with American coal producers were not honoured OAM did not have a lot of reserves.


5.1 Building Materials and Recycling

Rising demands for quality in buildings require building materials of top quality. Following this demand and in addition to its traditional business, OAM is able to supply the market with materials from large northern quarries, landed by self discharging vessels. Missing storage- and distribution facilities are being conceived by OAM. The outcome of these projections will highly influence the future development of the company.

When the production sites of the GfKK close down, the market for building materials is served with materials which are being imported or coming from other sources. The co-operation with a Danish shipowner and later with a British shipping agency enable OAM to deliver sea-sucked gravel to Hamburg. The limitation to the trade with high-qualified building materials results in a great demand for OAM materials for buildings of high engineering standards in Northern Germany, e.g. the draw-works at the Elbe-Seitenkanal, the Köhlbrandbridge, the Elbtunnel, the nuclear powerplant in Krümmel as well as almost every new constructed part of the north German highways

In 1980, the handling site at Grosse Elbstrasse is closed down, but activities can be continued on the East side of the Sandauhafen, after an agreement with Hansaport has been reached. The 25 000 m2 storage area for building materials located in the vicinity strengthen OAM's position in the market during the following years. With the bulk of activities being located at Sandauhafen, the trading department is moved into rented offices in this area.




Higher standards for prevention of air pollution require the installation of filters in utilities producing residuals hard to handle. OAM is aware of these problems and develops recycling proceedings in part patented.
The growing market for recycling activities require the restructuring of the trade department. In 1980, the "OAM Handel und Umschlag GmbH" is established for the trade of building materials and the "ETH Entsorgung Transport und Handel" for the recycling activities. Due to the increasing pressure for recycling industrial residuals, ETH is looking for a production site. In 1986, both companies move to the reactivated concrete production plant at Peute on the south bank of the river Elbe. With the technical installations already available there from former owners, fly ashes from power plants can be processed, muds are solidified and new recycling products are being developed.

OAM disposes of its shares in 1991 to concentrate on its core business.




5.2 The Pool

At the beginning of the eighties OAM establishes the Bulkship (Nederland) B.V. in Haaren together with the Bulkship, S.A., Fribourg. The business of Bulkship Switzerland is handed over to Bulkship (Nederland) B.V. At that time, eight ship owners with a total of 32 ships belong to the Pool. By re-locating the Pool in the Netherlands, it is expected that other Dutch ship owners will join. Apart from the German fleet the Netherlands have the greatest number of ships suitable for the Pool in size and construction. The appointment of Holger Schween (former head of the OAM shipping agency) as managing director of Bulkship B.V. clearly demonstrates its function and importance.

Dissatisfied with the results of the shipping business in 1978/79, Turnbull Scott leaves the Pool in 1979 changing its whole business into brokering activities after a short interim. Hence, the Pool looses eight ships.

Parallel to this, new contacts can be established with Spanish ship owners who evidently have difficulties in finding connections to the North European freight market. The Pool can offer them a fair and adequate solution for their vessels. In 1986, the number of ships in the Pool is totalling 30, nine of which belong to Spanish ship owners. The collapse of the freight market in 1986/87 leads to severe actions from the financing banks especially in Spain. More than 500 ships are embargoed, in part suspended from business and sold to foreign countries, with great losses for the banks . None of the Pool vessels are being affected by these measures. Compulsory sales of Dutch and German ships by European banks do not affect ships in the Pool either. Some of the vessels sold by Spanish banks are brought later into the Pool by North European ship owners.

Communication problems, protectionism of the Spanish government and fears that the Pool would co-operate closely with the Spanish banks are leading in 1987 to irritations among the Spanish ship owners who leave the Pool after a short period of obstruction.
This setback is accompanied by the departure of a large part of the chartering staff from OAM, but after a few difficult years with a reduced fleet the Pool gathers momentum again. With the combination of a number of time-chartered newbuildings and a newbuilding program of the Pool partners, the Pool in the last decade of the century is equipped with a fleet of more than 20 vessels again. With most of the tonnage being more modern than ever, it is very attractive to both owners and charterers. After more than 20 years, it is now accepted as a solid basis even for financiers of ship mortgages.


5.3 Shipping activities of OAM

Acceptable freight rates and absurd tax allowances at the beginning of the eighties lead to intense shipbuilding activities in Germany. OAM develops the concept of a top-loader, but as calculations prove an insufficient profitability it remains conceptual. The steadily growing excess capacity in coastal shipping remains obscured by the British miners' strike until 1984, but when it is over, the market collapses. With five vessels owned by OAM, the company faces falling profits and rising costs for foreign crew, worsened by the strengthening US-Dollar. Finally, OAM sells the vessels and closes down its ship managing department. An acceptable sales price is only achieved by offering a three years' re-charter to the new owner. With a still falling market, this re-charter leads to further losses until they are finally redelivered at the end of the 80's.

In the early 80's, the Dutch shipping company Sylvia Cargo goes bankrupt. OAM takes over 50 % of two of the six ships renaming them MS "Silke" and MS "Elise". The freight market recovers during the third quarter of 1987, allowing OAM to take over 75 % of two more ships and the remaining 25 % in 1988. One of these vessels is then sold to a Pool partner. Crewing and technical management are handled by a Dutch company.


5.4 Coal

Besides DEVCO as main supplier, OAM revives old connections to the British National Coal Board delivering British coal to cement factories in Germany and Switzerland. Logistics go to the timing of vessels' arrival at Rotterdam in accordance with the time-table of the Swiss Federal Railway from Basel to the cement factories. 'Singles' are obtained from Scotland for greenhouse-gardeners who have switched to coal combustion after the second oil crisis in 1981.



In search for other non-European suppliers Otto Ottmüller flies to Columbia. In 1986 the HEW receives the first sample from there for testin but due to complicated logistics and falling prices on the world market, Columbian coal is unable to compete. But at the same time, these activities generate important contacts to the "La Loma" project by the Americans concluding with a marketing agreement for this coal for the German area at the beginning of the nineties.


Especially in the second half of the eighties, OAM has to prevail against a concentration process within the German coal importing industry. The entry of the financially potent oil companies into this segment of the power market along with the shrinking German import market ("Jahrhundertvertrag") lead to stronger competition leaving OAM in 1989 the only independent coal importer in the German Federal Republic.



This development is further complicated by a completely unexpected change in top management. Otto A. Ottmüller and his wife Ortrud die in a plane crash on March 1st, 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their son Kai-Peter Ottmüller inherits the shares of his father managing the company together with Dr. Ewald Giebelmann who has already been member of the board for many years. Unfortunately, Dr. Giebelmann dies only four weeks later, on March 30th, 1988. Dr Hans Werner Oberlack joins the board of directors and a few months later Ulrich Kranzusch, a former employee of OAM, also becomes managing director.


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