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The History of Graig: Part Eight

by David Jenkins

Looking to the future

Graig embarked upon a new shipping venture in 2010 with the creation of Idwal Marine Services, Nick_Owens
later shortened to Idwal Marine. The company’s principal activity is the provision of ship inspections for third parties, particularly focussed towards the international finance and sale and purchase sectors, covering pre-purchase inspections, general ship condition reports, pre-charter inspections and inspections for P & I (protection & indemnity) clubs, across vessels of all types. Idwal Marine has capitalised on the increasing move towards digitalisation within the maritime industry and in late 2016 launched an online platform to deliver its core inspection services, widely recognised as a pioneering initiative in the global inspection market. A dry-docking supervision service is also offered. Presently under the management of Nick Owens, this has proved to be an exceptionally successful innovation and amongst the clients for whom Idwal Marine undertakes inspections are the major grain house Cargill, the Isle of Man ship registry and the shipping arm of the Dutch ABN AMRO bank.

Image_Page292010 also saw two significant additions to the Graig board when Christopher Hilton and Philip Atkinson were appointed directors. A Newcastle-based specialist maritime lawyer, Chris Hilton has long been associated with Graig as a legal adviser, whilst Phil Atkinson’s appointment as technical director was the culmination of a sea-going career which started on a Tyneside coaster in 1974 when in his teens, later joining Graig as a cadet in 1977.



Looking to the future

As the market picked up somewhat, shipowners once more showed an interest in acquiring new tonnage and Graig reinvigorated its various international partnerships to produce new designs for both bulk and container vessels. In 2012 the Seahorse 35 design of 35,000dwt geared bulk carrier was launched. Essentially a refined and developed version of the Diamond 34, a series of eight vessels was contracted for at the Jiangdong yard in China. The first two were taken by Graig in partnership with the equity arm of ABN AMRO bank in Rotterdam, the next four by CarVal, the shipping division of major world grain house Cargill, whilst the final two were taken by Greek shipping interests.

For those long associated with Graig, it was somehow fitting to see the company once more involved in the ownership of bulk carriers. The two vessels were named Graig Cardiff and Graig Rotterdam; both were registered at Cardiff and carry a full Chinese crew of twenty one. Commercial management of the vessels is provided by the long-established Danish shipowners and managers Lauritzen, where they operate as part of a varied pool of some sixty bulkers of handymax, panamax and kamsarmax sizes. Typical voyages might include fertilisers outward from Europe to Brazil or Argentina, returning with grain, or steel products from Europe to the US Gulf, again returning with grain. Their charters occasionally take them to ports and on voyages that would have been familiar to those chartering Cardiff ships and century and more ago – in the early months of 2014, for instance, the Graig Rotterdam sailed from Odessa with a cargo of maize for part discharge at Belfast, followed by completion of discharge at Glasgow. Needless to say though, this homeward passage had not been preceded by an outward voyage with coal from Barry or Cardiff to the Mediterranean!


Seahorse types Graig Rotterdam recently launched and the Graig Cardiff fitting out.

A major change in the company’s operations came about in the summer of 2017 with the sale of Graig Ship Management to V. Ships, a global market leader ship management company registered in Monaco but with its operational headquarters in London, and some sixty offices world-wide. V. Ships had for some time been hoping to establish a more substantial presence in China and found the high reputation of the operation developed by Graig in the Far East, offering cost effective and high quality services in both shipbuilding and ship management to clients, very attractive. Following lengthy negotiations, the deal was concluded on 10 August 2017.

Despite this sale Graig Shipping remains innovative and committed to a future in shipping. The two bulk carriers continue in operation, whilst 2018 saw the launch of a new ship design, the geared 63,000dwt Diamond 2 bulk carrier whose specification reflects the move towards increasingly efficient and environmentally-conscious tonnage. These are concerns that can hardly have crossed the minds of Idwal Williams and his fellow directors a century ago as they acquired the first Graig, and they reflect how times have changed. The closure of Graig’s London office in the spring of 2018 is a recent reflection of the fact that there is no longer a need for a physical presence in the City’s shipping quarter in the way that there was in the early 1950s when it was opened. The spring of 2018 also saw a notable break with the past in the death of former technical director Philip Thomas at the great age of ninety-seven. He had retained an interest in the company throughout his retirement and was a regular and popular visitor to the office to within months of his death.

In the modern shipping world, change is inevitable and it is by changing, and responding to change, that Graig has been a successful survivor. It adopted motor propulsion soon after the war and was the first Cardiff shipping company to acquire bulk carriers, thus enabling it to continue its participation in the world-wide tramping trades when other local companies were selling-up. The diversification of the 1970s and 1980s reflected the need to protect shareholders’ interests during volatile times for the company’s core shipping business, but the privatisation of the business in the 1990s has enabled the company to return to concentrate on that core business that it knows best. That Graig has changed and survived so effectively and successfully over the past one hundred years surely augurs well for the future.

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