SAI Maritime Management (P) Ltd. – Mumbai, India

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Interview with

Ms. Rukhsana Vohra Mithani

Rukhsana Vohra Mithani Portrait

First of all could you tell us about the history and ownership of Sai Maritime in India?

Sai Maritime & Management P.Ltd. was formed in 1984 as a subsidiary to our parent company, Sai Shipping Co Pvt Ltd. The primary focus of Sai Maritime was to acquire Indian flag, heavylift tonnage with a plan to operate along the Indian Coast. Unfortunately, this project was shelved, but as they say: “When one door closes, another opens.” A couple of years later, we were approached by German Carrier SAL (formerly known as Schiffahrtskontor Altes Land GmbH and then owned by the Heinrich family) to handle their vessel m.v. ANTJE calling at Kandla port. This opened up a window of opportunity to expand the Group’s activities into the project & heavylift market.

m.v.Antje 2x150 mton Derricks – the first SAL vessel handled by SAI

m.v.Antje 2×150 mton Derricks – the first SAL vessel handled by SAI

Besides offering Agency services at Mumbai, Kandla, and Chennai where we have our own offices and a strong sub-agency network in all the other major and minor ports in India, Sai Maritime are also brokers specialising in chartering of heavylift tonnage, LO/LO, RO/RO and semi-submersible tonnage.

We work very closely with the crème de la crème of the Indian heavy engineering sector and leading freight forwarders to find suitable solutions with our trusted partner carriers for their ODC and heavylift cargoes.

I understand that you represent some VIP shipowners in India. Tell us more about your activities in this field if possible.

Sai Maritime are the exclusive agents in India for SAL Heavy Lift GmbH Germany (a part of the Harren & Partner Group) who own 22 heavylift vessels operating around the world.  We are also their longest serving agent, spanning a partnership of 34 years.

SAL’s extensive experience coupled with SAI’s strong Indian presence and in-depth knowledge of the Indian market make us the first choice as a proficient partner for the safe delivery of all types of heavy, over dimensional (ODC) and project cargoes.

We provide our clients with a fleet of ultra-modern and purpose-built vessels at competitive freight rates. Our services can be described as are self-geared, in-house, customised, engineering solutions, including personal supervision from the planning stage to the successful completion and supported by a highly skilled crew on board.

SAL vessels regularly call at Indian ports There are, on average, 2-3 sailings a month east and westbound and also along the Indian Coast, carrying a variety of heavylift cargoes

Due to the non-availability of Indian flag, heavylift tonnage, SAL tonnage is regularly employed for coastal movements, especially cranes and dredgers which need to be shifted port to port. Heavy reactors, which are usually moved by barge or by road, are also transported on HLV due to shorter transit times and safer methods of transport, especially during the monsoon period May to September when barge movements are restricted along the coast.

Dredger weighing 300 mtons from Kandla to Dhamra

Dredger weighing 300 mtons from Kandla to Dhamra

Transporters of wind energy equipment such as nacelles, hubs and windmill blades are also now opting for the faster route of shipping by HLV.

We recently successfully completed 4 consecutive voyages from Chennai (East Coast India) to Kandla (West Coast India) carrying a full load of nacelles and hubs, each shipment comprising 23000 cbm.

Mv Maria performed 4 consecutive voyages from Chennai to Kandla with a full load of windmill equipment

m.v. Maria performed 4 consecutive voyages from Chennai to Kandla with a full load of windmill equipment

SAL Heavy Lift and SAI Maritime have together won many accolades and awards, as well as broken many records at Indian ports.

mv Anne-Sofie loaded the heaviest Reactor

In 2009, m.v. Anne-Sofie loaded the heaviest reactor ever handled at Mumbai port, weighing 1010 metric tons and measuring 29.50 x 8.10 x 7.40m.  (See the video here.)

Mv Lone loaded 1 Unit Ethylene Oxide Reactor

M.V.. Lone loaded 1 Unit Ethylene Oxide Reactor 1324 metric tons (Weight along with lifting gear) Dimensions – 21.300 X 13.00 X 10.250 meters ( L X B X H ) in 2013

There is a lot of competition in India in general. I suppose ALSO on the shipping agency side in particular. What makes your company stand out as the reliable agent to choose for marketing and services in India?

Ship Agency has been the essence and core of our business since 1977. Our personal attention to detail, on call 24×7, a professional and dedicated team, the ability to think out-of-the-box, especially in challenging circumstances which are quite common at Indian ports are all skills which we bring to the shipping table. We have continually offered quality assured shipping services, always finding solutions ahead of time.

Our Agency team comprises highly experienced personnel with a wealth of  knowledge and who are able to handle the most complex of project cargo shipments independently, without the supervision of a Port Captain or a Supercargo.

Some of our key service attributes include:

  • Trusted & Reliable 
  • Excellent relationship with Authorities 
  • Professional and skilled 
  • Quick turn-around of vessels & cargo, ensuring operational efficiency and cost savings
  • Constant connectivity with ship owners/operators, charterers and forwarders

Our Agency Team – in attendance 24×7                              

India has a lot of ports. Could you tell us a bit about the main ports used (in your experience) for moving project cargoes?

The Indian peninsula is one of the biggest in the world, spanning 7500 kms. This lengthy coastline is responsible for a large portion of India’s export and import. There are currently 13 major seaports in India (12 of which are operated under the Government of India and 1 which is operated privately) and 187 notified minor and intermediate ports, some of which are privately held.

Most Indian ports have facilities to handle multipurpose vessels, but breakbulk and project cargo movement is concentrated at Mumbai, Deendayal (formerly known as Kandla), Mundra on the West Coast, and Chennai ,Tuticorin and Visakhapatnam on the East Coast. 

From having a few major ports only a while ago, India has seen an exponential growth of ports, with the private ports now the dominating players for project cargoes, offering gateways & roads to access the final sites and vice versa for exports where we have seen EPC’s setup close to the private ports, like for e.g. Mundra and Dahej.

MV Svenja

M.V. Svenja (Beam 27.91m) entering the  Mumbai Lock Gate on her maiden voyage to India

India Map

India’s infrastructure has been a bit slow in developing, but recently, massive improvements have taken place. Can you confirm this, and what is your view on the infrastructure and the ability to move project cargoes and OOG pieces inland in India?

Yes, India’s infrastructure has been slow with various hurdles expected in dealing with such a vast country and diversified cultures. The stable political climate has been positive, making a serious thrust to the growth and infrastructure, and we are seeing an especially good expansion on the roads plus the inland waterways which will be a very important route to access the midlands of India and develop basic projects since access of transport is feasible. With the introduction of digital payments and the implementation of GST nationwide, the procedures have indeed become much easier.

I can see from your excellent website that you also provide ship management. Can you tell us more about this side of your business?

The Ship Management division was started in 2012 to focus on managing the Group’s two owned vessels in order to maintain a high standard which we also now offer to other shipowners.

We handle complete management of ships, comprising of:

  • Officer & crew recruitment, payroll and portage bills handling
  • Ship’s staff repatriation & victualling
  • Technical management, Class & Flag matters
  • Repairs & spares handling
  • Sourcing of original spares from demo market
  • Dry docking
  • Marine insurance (H&M)
  • P&I Club negotiations
  • Bunkering of vessels
  • Maritime legal matters
  • Ship inspection & new acquisitions
  • Demo negotiation & delivery.
  • Banking & Ship finance.

Sai Maritime also holds Document of Compliance (DOC) issued by the Indian Govt (DGS) & the Panama Maritime Administration (PMA)

When did you join the company yourself, and what made you choose a career in shipping?

You could say it’s in my blood. While I was growing up, the only conversation at our family dinner table was about ships because it was our family business, helmed by my father and 4 elder brothers. By the time I finished school, I was familiar with all the shipping lingo, but I had never thought of it as a career because I always saw it as a man’s business. I was in my first year of college pursuing a Degree in Arts, when I decided, in order to earn some pocket money, to take up a part-time job as an assistant in the chartering department. It was a good introduction to shipping and a fun experience, which led to my drive to learn about other departments through internships. I worked in Freight Forwarding, Accounts, Agency and Marketing. I was very lucky to be mentored by some of the best professionals in the industry during this time. After spending several years in container marketing, an opportunity knocked in the shape of a project cargo. A dismantled SKODA plant from Mumbai to Gdansk landed in my lap, which I fixed with SAL, and there has been no looking back since.

Woman Entrepreneur of the Year

Recipient of the “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” at the MALA Awards 2011                              

What does the future hold for Sai Maritime, and what do you have in the pipeline with respect to company developments?

We are 36 years young and still raring to go with a passion to strive more, open new avenues, and offer our expertise to clients worldwide. Even though we are based in India’s financial capital city – Mumbai – our reach and connectivity is global.

Power Team – Rukhsana Vohra & Khalid Vohra Chairman and Managing Director, SAI Group

Power Team – Rukhsana Vohra &  Khalid Vohra Chairman and Managing Director, SAI Group

If people would like to reach you, what are their options?

Ship Management
Capt. Ravishankar, CEO
Email: ravishankar@saiship.com

Ms. Rukhsana Vohra Mithani – Director, Projects
Email: rukhsana@saiship.com

Agency and Port Information
Mr. Santosh Gurav – Manager, Operations
Email: agency@saiship.com

Disbursement Accounts
Mr. Rafique Shaikh
Email: accounts@saiship.com

Our website: www.saimaritime.com