4. New Horizons in the Seventies

4.1 The Renaissance of Coal

When in the beginning of the seventies the OPEC causes the first oil crisis and the Club of Rome publishes its study on the finiteness of resources, Otto Ottmüller is convinced, that there will be a renaissance for coal. Hardly active in the coal business any longer, he is looking for a new start in the market. As it happened, on one of his flights he is sitting next to the geologist Prof. Burchhard who is touring the world in search of new oil fields. He gives him the hint at a coal mine located in East Canada near Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Although the marketing manager of this mine, Mr. Lloyd Creaser, tells him that the mine has no coal to sell being used exclusively in the domestic market, Otto Ottmüller visits the site being the first person going there. He leaves Canada with the vague promise that he will be contacted as soon as coal would be available for export. In 1976 OAM buys the first lot of about 23.000 t of coal from the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO) with destination for the Hamburg Electricity plants in Wedel. An excellent professional and personal relationship between Lloyd Creaser and Otto Ottmüller is the result of a creative spirit of business leading for example in Canada to the acquisition and storage of coal by the Hamburg Electricity Company HEW.

 

 

A tragic incident in 1982, the explosion on the MS "KAPETAN GEORGIS" on its way from Sydney to Hamburg with a cargo of DEVCO-coal, leads to a temporary crisis of DEVCO coal sales. Having steered the vessel for Rotterdam as port of refuge, the coal is discharged into storage, being arrested and released only four months later. This enables a great number of German power plants mainly located in the Rhine area, to test samples of this high quality coal. In the following year, OAM achieves to place 700.000 t of DEVCO-coal in spite of a market recession for imported coal, exceeding by far the results of the previous years.

The shipowners united under the Euro-Minibulker-Pool since 1972 are able to counter the falling freight rates which follow the rather strong market in 1974 and 1975 lasting until 1979, through a relatively good contractual coverage. Due to this positive development other shipowners follow the Pool (Sylvia Cargo B.V., Turnbull Scott).

 

4.3 Nigeria

Exports of Nigerian coal is failing due to the inability of the Nigerians to organise the transport from the mine to Port Harcourt where it should be shipped to Europe.

Nigeria, by then, faces considerable difficulties in the handling of cargo. Sudden wealth from sharply increased oil prices leads to uncoordinated purchases of cement by various ministries and within a few weeks a fleet of several hundreds of vessels is assembled off Lagos, all waiting on demurrage for discharge causing losses of millions every day with no chance for the government to escape. The situation is chaotic and simple calculations show that it would be cheaper to throw the cement away or even sink the vessels than leave them waiting to get their turn for discharge.
Together with the Hamburg Port constructor Sellhorn OAM starts soil drilling, sounding and planning as well as negotiations with the Nigerian Government with regard to the construction of a conveyor port in the shallow protected lagoon area behind the chaotic city traffic of Lagos. Barges which are not employed any more for carrying gravel in Germany should be brought by OAM to Nigeria, shipping goods from incoming vessels to the area behind Lagos.
But the Government in Nigeria changes and the Prime Minister Gowon is overthrown. The new ministers still need some time and, finally, the order is placed with a Dutch company being faster in finding out the respective governmental official.

 

4.2 Saudi Arabia

 

 

Saudi Arabia faces the same Problem of sharply increased imports and insufficient Port facilities. Vessels ar being discharged by helicopters as a last resort! The OAM subsidiary "COMCO" forms a joint-venture together with the cement importer Abdallah Baroom of Jeddah for the transport of cement from vessels lying on roads to shore.

"COMCO" delivers barges, cranes, generators and other equipment to Jeddah totalling DM 10 Mio. but due to the inexperience with local conditions and the lack of co-operation of Baroom's this joint-venture ends with a big loss in 1977 which can be recovered through a second contract by which the joint-venture Baroom takes control over the stevedores working on the vessels achieving better rates per ton and far better productivity. But Baroon still refuses payments causing, again, a considerable loss for OAM.

The Lübisch-Hanseatische Schiffahrtsgesellschaft is involved in a similar operation in the Port of Gizan from August 1978 till spring 1979. Along with 15 specialists coming from Germany, 600 workers are recruited in Pakistan. The performance meets the expectations. OAM does this job with little profit, thus proving that the failed operation in Jeddah can only be attributed on a small scale to mismanagement.

 

4.5 OAM Handel und Umschlag GmbH

Rising demands for building 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 selfdischargers. Due storage- and distribution facilities are being conceived by OAM. The outcome of these projections will highly influence the future development of the company.

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