Former Heidmar boss says new outfit Concord Maritime is bullish on crude carrier market recovery

by Joe Brady

Former Heidmar chief executive Ben Ognibene has re-emerged at the helm of his own commercial-management operation in the crude sector. Ognibene told TradeWinds he is forming Concord Maritime in partnership with American Working Capital (AWC), a Chicago-based provider of private funding that is making its debut in the shipping sector. Concord will be based in Fairfield County and focus on the aframax, suezmax and VLCC segments, all areas of experience for Ognibene during his 13 years at Norwalk, Connecticut-based Heidmar.Ognibene resigned from Heidmar last September and has been on a gardening leave that expired last month.

Concord is to begin operations in May.  “It’s going to be primarily a commercial-management platform for third-party crude tankers,” Ognibene told TradeWinds. “We’re focusing on crude because it’s a very depressed segment right now, but there’s a lot of upside potential. It’s not going to remain depressed forever. I have a lot of experience in the crude segment as well as long-term relationships there.”

During his time at Heidmar, Ognibene was directly responsible for the development and growth of its pools for aframax crude tankers/LR2 product carriers and for suezmax tankers. He later oversaw creation of its VLCC pool.  “Aframaxes, suezmaxes and VLCCs correlate very well and you can build a presence in each of them simultaneously without having to build out one and then separately build out the next — they involve similar customers and trades,” Ognibene explained.

Chartered in tonnage

As was the case at Heidmar, Concord plans to charter in tonnage for its own account and to commercially manage ships for third-party clients. “Through our partnership with AWC, we’ll be adequately capitalised to take in significant time-charter activity, which is the quickest way to develop a market presence in the initial stage,” Ognibene said.
“We’ll then look to grow that presence by taking in third-party tonnage.” AWC has been active in transportation and logistics, and is looking forward to its shipping entry through Concord, managing partner Bryce May said. “We are excited to partner with Ben,” May said, citing “his proven leadership capabilities and his experience building world-class commercial management platforms”. Ognibene said he is working on assembling the Concord staff.

Heidmar had about 100 vessels in its pools at the time of Ognibene’s departure. Currently led by James Pippard, Heidmar is owned 49% by financial giant Morgan Stanley and 49% by George Economou’s public company DryShips.