The world’s largest buyer of ships, GMS is committed to environmentally sound recycling. Its direct investment in yards at Alang in India and Bangladesh, combined with a significant investment of about $1m in the development of a unique ‘green’ CSR programme and the education of the industry, demonstrates GMS’s dedication to environmental protection.
The European caught up with Head of Projects, GMS USA, Evan Sproviero to find out more about the principals and strategy underpinning this complex global operation.
Tell us about the origins of GMS.
Evan Sproviero: The company was founded by Dr Anil Sharma in 1992. Originally from Gujarat, India, Dr Sharma moved to the USA in the early 1980s as a student and earned his Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), eventually becoming a professor and the chairman of a business school in Maryland. Although Dr Sharma had no background in shipping or shipbreaking, his hometown of Bhavnagar is extremely close to Alang, which is now the largest ship recycling site in the world. Living in Maryland, he had easy access to Washington, D.C., an opportunity that allowed the professor the chance to acquire US government ships through the Maritime Administration. He was then invited by the Russian government to bid on their obsolete navy vessels that were left over from the Cold War. From these humble origins, Dr Sharma was able to develop the company into the largest buyer of ships in the world, now headquartered in Dubai and with offices in eight countries: USA, Greece, UAE, Germany, S. Korea, China, Japan, and Singapore.
GMS is the world’s largest and first ISO 9001 (BV) certified cash buyer of ships for recycling. Is this what sets you apart from the competition?
ES: Not necessarily. I believe what sets us apart is the hands-on approach that our principals take in each deal to ensure that, from start to finish, an acquisition goes smoothly. Our localised offices in each region around the world help us to stay at the cutting-edge of the industry and ensure that although we are the largest buyer of ships in the world, each client receives the high quality and care that normally only boutique firms can provide. Our attention to detail and knowledge of the market and local regulations ensure that deals go smoothly and our clients are able to receive the best value for money.
The ISO certification is extremely important to GMS, but our reputation is the key to our success. Having acquired over 3,000 vessels, our principals have modernised the ship recycling industry, bringing a level of professionalism and performance standards that our competitors cannot compete with. Moreover, GMS has made a significant investment in its CSR programme over the last ten years in an effort to educate shipowners, regulators and the media about the necessity of implementing responsible ship recycling. Our Responsible Ship Recycling programme focuses on the benefits of green recycling of all types of vessels at recycling yards that have received a Statement of Compliance (SOC) with the guidelines of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC).
From your initial base in the US, you now have offices all over the world. How does expansion make for more effective and efficient trade?
ES: Our worldwide offices help GMS to maintain real-time coverage of the markets and their minute by minute developments. We are structured in a way that allows our clients to have 24/7 access to our principals and ensures that we can buy or sell a ship no matter the time of day or night. The ability to trade ships with a seamless approach throughout the world has allowed GMS to ensure that its quality standards are being maintained in each corner of the globe while providing an on call service to our clients. Most importantly, our eight offices around the world afford our principals the ability to maintain direct personal relationships with our clients – a key ingredient to our success.
Please outline the services you provide to your clients.
ES: GMS provides its clients with a reliable counterparty to acquire their end-of-life ships and ensure that they are properly recycled. In addition to our standard services, our principals offer the market responsible ship recycling options, which ensure sellers are able to comply with their evolving CSR requirements while also being good stewards of our planet.
You are now complemented by a division specialising in corporate acquisitions – GMS Capital – how will this aid GMS?
ES: The GMS Capital arm of the company handles all of our principals shipping and non-shipping related projects. This ranges from new building and second-hand ship acquisitions and finance down to real estate investments and the recent acquisition of a professional sports team. From many years of solving problems within our own fleet of ships for recycling, our principals have expanded their reach to build on our in-house knowledge base to acquire and restructure failing companies through a pragmatic approach to the business. This division helps GMS offer finance and other services to our core clients whom we have worked closely with for many years, taking advantage of the synergies that exist between the various aspects of the shipping industry that we are involved in on a daily basis.
You have successfully negotiated around 3,000 ships for recycling to date. How does this experience benefit your clients?
ES: Our team works hard to ensure that any deal that we conclude is done to the best of our abilities. If something is not 100% in a particular transaction, then we work hard to ensure we rectify any inefficiency in our next deal. Having done this in excess of 3,000 times has allowed our principals to fine-tune the cash buying process and ensure that we offer our clients the highest quality of service that is available anywhere in the world. It is our passion for the industry and the pride we take in our good reputation of 25 years that keeps us focused on making sure our clients receive the best service available, which has helped us to retain most of our clients for decades.