Former Heidmar colleagues get to work on building a fleet as new shop fills management posts and takes in first tankers

by Joe Brady

Ben Ognibene and Jim Hurley know something about building from scratch from their first days together some 14 years ago at Heidmar, where the task was to get the Sigma aframax tanker pool off the ground.

The tanker veterans are now writing a new chapter together as Ognibene has hired Hurley as chief operating officer to help lead his new Concord Maritime.

The job to rebuild has started again, commencing with Connecticut based Concord taking two aframaxes from the fleet of Atlas Maritime under commercial management as its first vessels.

Concord also has leased its first office space in downtown Stamford. Ognibene, the former Heidmar chief executive, discussed recruiting Hurley and three more Heidmar veterans as his initial management team with TradeWinds this week.

“Jim and I have a long and fruitful relationship dating back to our early days at Heidmar, about 14 years ago,” said Ognibene, who resigned last September and formed Concord in April.

“We were both hired to work on the creation of Heidmar’s aframax pool. We rose through the ranks working together again on the creation of their suezmax pool and upward into senior management.

“Jim has the chartering expertise and relationships, which complements my expertise and relationships with the owners and capital providers.”

Hurley most recently had been managing Heidmar’s suezmax and VLCC pools. In earlier years, he worked for Bayway Refinery, Hess, Philips 66 and Tosco.

“We started small and built [the Heidmar pools] up to pretty competitive entities,” Ognibene said. “We always competed right from the get-go and again we’re at a place where we’re building something from scratch.”

Further additions

Also coming over from Heidmar are Kristen Fugiel as controller, Nikolaos Kontos as director of business operations and Noreen McCarthy as director of pools. All had worked in similar areas for Norwalk, Connecticut-based Heidmar, which is jointly owned by Morgan Stanley and DryShips, the public company of Greek shipowner George Economou.

Ognibene revealed in April that he was forming Concord in partnership with American Working Capital, a Chicago-based provider of private funding that was making its debut in the shipping sector.

Concord will focus on the aframax, suezmax and VLCC segments — all areas of experience for Ognibene during his 13 years at Heidmar. Concord has begun management of two Atlas Maritime aframaxes: the 115,500-dwt Texas Star and Lady M (both built 2003). Ognibene said both tankers are operating in Asian trades. The ultimate plan is to blend commercial management of third-party tonnage with chartered-in tankers under a pool framework, Ognibene said.

“Despite some recent volatility in the spot tanker markets, it has still been a difficult year,” Ognibene said.

“It feels like the worst is behind us though, and we should get back to a more normative winter market in the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2019.”