An Interview with Jan Preugschat,

MD of JP Maritime Services & Broking Limited & Co. KG

(June 2020)

Thank you for spending your valuable time talking to us today. Can we start with a short introduction to yourself and your company.

My name is Jan Preugschat, I am a German citizen and have 35 years of experience and I would also say a sound and reliable record of competence in the Sale & Purchase Broking industry, having worked in senior positions for reputable German and International Ship Owning and Shipbroking companies in Hamburg, Hong Kong and Singapore.

I have a proven track record of over 30 years in “international waters” and, whilst this may be seen a bit old fashioned, I endeavour to offer traditional values of competence, dedication, professionalism, reliability and trust coupled with a client-minded approach and discretion as well as the use of most modern day communication/database platforms like Compass.

With 35 years in shipbroking in Europe and the Far East, can you tell us a bit more about your career before starting JPMSB back in Hamburg?

I started with Andreas J. Zachariassen in 1985, in the times of telex and ticker tapes. From 1989 to 1995, I established two shipbroking firms in Hong Kong which were controlled by Bernard Schulte, then went back to Zachariassen in Hamburg. In June 2000 I joined Platou Asia in Singapore and just after 9/11 in 2001, I started with Rodskog (Fearnley Group) in Hong Kong. In early 2006, I returned to Hamburg where I established the in-house S&P Department for the Chile head quartered Ultranav Group (formerly Ultragas). JPMSB was established in the autumn of 2014.

You have clearly worked with some of the biggest names in the business over the years, can you give us an insight into some of your favourite achievements prior to setting up your own firm?

I like to keep a low profile, and having been in this business for 35 years, have moved to and worked in different and challenging locations. This has meant a number of restarts in terms of client relationships which has been quite an achievement. Somehow, it seems, I have also become an expert in setting up and restructuring S&P broking companies/departments, as I did for the Schulte and Ultranav Groups, in Platou Asia (then a J/V between Zachariassen and Platou) and then when setting up my own company.

Post telex and ticker tape, there have been many types of systems and software available to brokers. How did using Compass compare?

Certainly the other systems were not as efficient as working with Compass. Since 1987/88 I worked with various dedicated shipbroking software solutions but none of the products developed over time to the degree that I felt “love at 1st sight”, if one may relate to an application in that way.

With the experience that you have, clearly you had been making good use of existing systems. What was it that made you look for another solution, presumably something better that what you were using at the time?

The main trigger was the establishment of my own company. I was a bit sick of the big corporate politics and with nearly 30 years of S&P experience I decided to do this on my own, using overseas staff for data entry and support. For that purpose I needed a product that would enable us to work location independent without any loss of productivity, irrespective of gadgets.

When were you first aware of Compass being used by other shipbrokers, and when did you start using it yourself?

The first time I spotted Compass was in 2013. The Ultranav Group changed its communication platform and the existing database was phased out. As a consequence the S&P Department had to look for a possible alternative. I looked at some options but as I mentioned before, seeing Compass in action it was “Love at 1st sight” – sadly we had to wait until I established my own shipbroking company a year later before we could use it.

There are always going to be challenges when changing software and systems. What was it like when you introduced Compass software and how did the team respond to your needs?

No doubt, the initial questions about cost, hosting etc, where Compass were absolutely transparent and extremely helpful with recommendations. I had an early agreement with my former employers that I could extract the S&P data from their previous database. That in itself took a lot longer than anticipated, but once the data was available, Compass acted swiftly and I could make use of a system that included commercial ship data reaching back more than 8 years.

“the best professional tool to use for S&P professionals”

Compass is plainly a valuable tool in the day to day running of JPMSB. In a few words, what you would you say are the greatest advantages that using the software brings to your company?

First of all, from my perspective, the company set-up and the way I work, this is the best professional tool to use for S&P professionals. The system offers flexibility to every user, irrespective of IT related affinities etc.

Compass is offering everything to me that I need to be efficient and professional in a tough global environment.

As a small company that competes with large broking companies, an “assistant” like Compass shows how efficient dedicated individuals can be – which certainly translates into client recognition, respect and more business opportunities.

Compass is simply the best professional software for JPMSB’s needs and in all those years there was no single moment where I considered switching to another software.

No matter what day it is or what time it is, your Support is promptly available and solves any problems we have instantly.

Value for money is always very important. Would you say it has  been a good investment for JPMSB?

Oh yes, absolutely. If you want to be professional and offer a competitive service in this global basin filled with mostly bigger and more hungry sharks, you need to invest in and maintain such a professional product. It is great value for money and the investment has helped me generate income.

You make good use of the version of Compass software that has been designed specifically for SnP brokers. What are some of the top features or services you found to be of most value?

I have a few in mind but since I must narrow them down to just a couple, I would say the most interesting and already used in our daily activities is “Discussions”. We now chat directly to each other about group emails either coming in or leaving the system. Just to give you an example, our procedure before was to copy text from the email, then paste into a chat system like Skype or WhatsApp. Unfortunately, on many occasions we would lose track of conversations and the point of reference. We can now avoid that and keep track of everything with the in-built chat feature. After using it for the last 2 weeks we’ have managed to save a lot of time and avoid headaches.

Another big problem we had was knowing when certain important emails arrived that we had been expecting. These emails might be a reply to a circular we had sent out or an email about an important deal we were working on. We are now able to mark those important emails, then Compass sends a notification to us, even to our mobile, as soon as a reply arrives in our inbox. This “NotifyMe” feature eliminates the need to permanently look at the inbox. For larger companies this means they do not need to have someone from the office text or call them to let them know a reply has been received. This is great.

Also, one should not forget the people behind Compass. Whether it is Support or Development, I am extremely satisfied. There are always open ears.

For me the most valuable features are: tailor made format of ships, that can be integrated to messages; the easy way to link vessels to messages and addresses; the use of keywords, also individually/user created that particularly help me to search; the circular lists, secure data – I could mention a few more…

“excellent value for money”

If you were to recommend Compass software to other brokers, can you tell us what would be the reasons?

The dedicated people that stand and live for this product. Yes, we are paying clients, but you guys really put a lot of effort into client relationship and satisfaction.

Then comes the S&P related product with all its convenient features that you continue to develop. It is obvious that you place a lot of your income into product development to reflect modern day needs, to integrate latest IT.

You are also excellent value for money.

If you had to choose one thing, what does Compass have a real impact on, day to day?

I cannot let go … it has become a companion because as a self-employed person working in this profession where most of us are available 24/7/365 I look at and work with Compass where ever I am and at what ever time required. I prefer proper keyboards and large monitors, but it can also be used on your smartphone etc.

Tragically, the coronavirus pandemic has affected all of our lives. It has changed the way we have been working over the last few months, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future. What do you think the S&P broking market will look like, post Covid-19?

Now in the middle of May, around two months of lock down in most of Europe is behind us. How this affects the S&P market will largely depend on how long each country’s lock down lasts, its easing, and the port and travel restrictions that apply, etc. For sure, there will be victims among us, people will lose their jobs and companies will close, like in all walks of life. For now Owners simply have other priorities to deal with.

I lived in Hong Kong during SARS which nobody can compare with Covid-19, the world economy and particularly the importance of China was a completely different one. Once the WHO declared SARS “under control”, it took about 6 months before the global logistics and transport business normalized. As such Covid-19 will occupy us for some time to come.

One key observation I made was that the sudden lock down has identified many shipbroking companies/individuals lacking professional organization. Unbelievable how many brokers in this 24/7/365 business seem to have no PC/Laptop, monitor or printer available at their homes. Interestingly, when working remotely, during these challenging times nobody can hide behind a big corporate name or an internal service hierarchy.

I hope that our clients develop(ed) an eye for that as well, it is not a matter of company size or brand, it is a question of individual competence, quality and high standards, irrespective of the present circumstances.

Looking at the Post Covid-19 times… I may be a bit naïve but I suppose with 35 years in the business I may also have some valid points, as such I would hope that once a certain normality returns, the broking community will 1st of all show more respect for each other. That has been lost over the last years.

I would not mind if at least some of us started to reflect and would welcome to actively talk about necessary adjustments to protect our interests to strengthen our profession – or to form collaborations that make sure this will happen.

What minimum qualifications would brokers have to offer?

Do some of the Broking houses need to have countless overseas offices, adding them like trophies, while they cross subsidize them when they should accept, respect and support (existing) local expertise instead?

Is our industry’s modus operandi “2020 equivalent” and matching other industries’ codes of conduct?

For instance:

1) The entire concept of broker to broker engagement is still based on the traditional open mass distribution of highly sensitive/valuable information purely on a trust basis – which is an irony given the regular abuse of such information amid a lack of transparency and potential conflict of interest.

2) In this industry it should still be common and accepted to have one broker on each side of the table. As such the brokers also should stand up for their own rights against clients that are happy to use our infrastructures and services for free, but seem to have problems with the payment of reasonable commissions.

3) In that context I wonder what justification all the organisations or interest groups have if they do not address and implement the rules of engagement for all participants in our business. I believe the time has come to challenge them.

We are very grateful for the time you have spent talking to us today Jan. It’s been very interesting to get an insight into JPMSB and your career in shipbroking. One final thing, if we could use a quote from you, what would it be?

This is not the time to lose optimism. We are together in this and can only come out of this crisis stronger with a sense of loyalty.

JP Maritime Services & Broking

JP Maritime Services & Broking Limited & Co. KG is an independent ship sale and purchase broking company based in Hamburg. It focuses primarily on ship SnP broking of merchant vessels, such as Bulk Carriers, Container Vessels, Multi-Purpose ships and Tankers. JPMSB’s activities also include Newbuilding contracting, Second hand transactions as well as the Recycling of vessels.