In 1980, the great crisis of the naval construction market in Spain began. The major oil companies abandoned any activity that was not related to their core business, which caused the sale of their fleets. At the same time, the Spanish shipyards, pressured by the increasingly severe conditions of the European Union, sought to increase its productivity but had to face the decline in demand of the construction of domestic market ships.
Aiming to modernize and establish a new foundation for this important industry, the Spanish government, making a great effort, invested about 2,000 million dollars in equity and another 2,000 from the EU cohesion funds. During this “tug of war” between builders, ASTANO shipyard threatened to close or alter their activity. The reason given for this decision was that. among its products, there were two Aframax type vessels for the carriage of liquids, with a capacity of 80,000 tons, built on behalf of a Greek ship-owner settled in the U.S. (Pappas Group) that subsequently canceled the order. In other matters, Jugotanker, owner of Zadar, had planned to purchase a vessel of the same features. Transmadrid, in collaboration with ASTANO, proposed Sopromar (that at that time belonged to Spanish Shipyards) the possibility of finding a buyer for its vessels. This is how Transmadrid began in the shipbuilding sector.
Transmadrid and Sopromar quickly knew that the Spanish Shipyards, under the threat of an imminent closure, was ready to set the price of any ship with those features for half price of the real value. Favorable financing conditions could be also achieved. Against unbelief, even after blocking the attempt provoked by some close circles to Jugotanker, and especially thanks to the efforts and commitment of the its CEO, Borislav Skific, and commercial director Stanko Banic, the purchase, a close collaboration from Sopromar and Transmadrid, could be successful.
We do not exaggerate in thinking that the subsequent operation of these two vessels (Petar Leckovic and Velimir Skorpik) had a positive reaction on Jugotanker activities, and in fact on its owner Tankerska Plovidba. Jugotanker is in fact a company with a bright future.
This was the beginning of a close and fruitful collaboration between Sopromar and Transmadrid, which has materialized almost all the commercial transactions in the field of shipbuilding and ship purchase between Spain and the former Yugoslavia and now Croatia.
Through this project, Transmadrid started, as mentioned above, a long period in the shipbuilding sector, in order to get an alliance between the Spanish and Croatian shipbuilders, and to exchange experiences, especially in regard to conversion of the Spanish shipbuilding industry. In this sense, Transmadrid powers the commercial and technical collaboration between the Spanish Shipyards and the Croatian shipbuilders Association, named Jadranbrod. At that time, both Juan Saez Elejido, representative of the Spanish side and Josko Eterovic from Jadranbrod valued and supported the project.
It is essencial to say that Transmadrid considered this initiative 18 years ago, many time before the war in Yugoslavia. In September 1991, a Croatian delegation visited the Spanish shipyards. The visit to Spain, which lasted 2 days, was organized by Transmadrid thanks to the agreement reached by the President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. Within the program, the first day the delegation visited the complete Spanish Shipyards. After, they could see the Puerto Real shipping, in Southern Spain. During the visit the main topics discussed were the experience in the sector of shipyards and the forced transformation process shipyards companies were in. In the various meetings held in Madrid between the Spanish Shipyards directors and Jadranbrod, the views and proposals of both were exposed. An experience that was very well considered. It was also a premonitory lesson of what was about to happen to the Croatian shipyards..
After the first draft and delivery of those two Jugotanker’s vessels in Zadar, the collaboration between Spanish Shipyards and Jugotanker continued. In 1990, there was a new construction of a Suez-MAX boat type issued by AESA from Puerto Real.
Then the two companies proceeded with a serial of vessels to Croatian ship-owners, delivery that had a very favorable financing terms provided by the Spanish Government. At that time, all the projects had the same advantage: good prices and credit facilities as a result of the crisis of the Spanish shipbuilding industry.
In any case, we are convinced that each of the projects mentioned were themselves related to building bridges of collaboration and trust established between the two countries.
Collaboration with the shipyard Uljanik Pula 1989-2006
The experience between Spanish Shipyards and Jadranbrod achieved through the technical exchange, and the spirit of opening new avenues of cooperation from Transmadrid guided the business activity of the Croatian shipyards possibility to build ships for Spanish owners. At first it seemed it was a nearly unattainable challenge, considering the difference between the technological capability and the Spanish shipyards priority need for particularly sophisticated funding. Moreover, the Croatian shipbuilding industry was considered to have a good standing and quality references that were recognized in international markets. Certainly, the Croatian industry shipbuilding represented the most valued brand of their products.
The biggest problem for the Croatian shipbuilding industry was the lack of an adequate domestic financing, particularly when it came to shipping orders seeking long-term loans. Precisely, those financing conditions were simplified by the Spanish financial system, what meant the key to the sale of Spanish ships to Croats shipowners as described above.
At the beginning of 1987, Sopromar and Transmadrid began to visit various Croatian shipyards and, to research their technological capabilities and the professionalism of the managers of the respective companies to embark themselves into an “impossible mission”: the sale of ships to Spanish owners. They finally chose the shipyard Uljanik Pula.
The group Uljanik is a leading company in creativity and innovation which philosophy is creating business through synergy effects. Its strategy in shipbuilding, its adaptive designs to the European standards, its waste management and reducing the polluting effects on the environment (easily identifiable and confirmed to be granted with the ISO certificate) and the quality of its production processes to the systematic protection of the environment were took into consideration. Their motto: “We are a yard in which everyone wants to build ships,” summarizes the satisfaction of owners.
Sopromar and Transmadrid achieved a Spanish team to set negotiations and interest in the shipyard Uljanik Pula. The common interest arises in the building of Product Carier type ships with a capacity of 40/45.000 tons.
After that, the signing of an agreement to build two sister ships, ACTINIA and ANEMONIA, with a capacity of 40,158 tons each and used to transport chemicals, took place. The ACTINIA was delivered within the agreed time. This satisfying delivery helped on strengthening the confidence between the Uljanik and the Spanish shipping managers. This environment was marred by the late delivery of the second vessel, ANEMONIA, because of the Croatian war. The new circumstances caused by the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the collapse of the financial system delayed the completion of the contract significantly.
At this historic moment, Croatia had closed contracts worth $ 1,600 million in shipbuilding, while for other economic sectors was almost impossible to find any businesses. All this happens while a war is taking place and in an environment in which the global capital seeks to avoid investments. Also, uneasiness produced by not knowing if what was made by the Croatian shipyards would be destroyed or not by the criminals. Foreign banks do not even want to talk about finance anyone who is practically at a war zone, nor to establish any type of collateral warrantee for business settled there. Furthermore, buyers do not accept warranties of any bank located in Croatia. Under these circumstances, we needed to be very smart to be able to make money and buy raw materials or equipment to meet the production.
The bombings continued on Croatia. In this atmosphere of war only a few managed to cope with such a problem and continued to lead their companies awaiting for better times.
Building ANEMONIA continues its process. The great professionalism demonstrated by the Uljanik executives, starting with its Chairman Radolovic Karlo, its chief financial officer or director Antun Brajkovic and its commercial Dario Marchi, and the firmness and resolution of the directors of Spanish shipowners and the confidence of Transmadrid to continue despite of the huge inconveniences, we mobilized all the financial solutions. After the difficulties and dramatic experience lived by all those involved in the project, ANEMONIA ship was finally delivered on the spring of 1995. In January of that year, after a long illness, Djordje Hajduka, CEO of Transmadrid, dies. Hajduka was very aware of the contract and delivery of this vessel until his last days. The difficulties experienced served to strengthen the confidence of everyone who participated in this project and to open new prospects for Uljanik to receive orders for new Spanish ships. Transmadrid again knew how to mediate when unexpected events happen. Crisis situations, once overcame, pave the way for a long future collaboration.
The next ship, a cargo ship with capacity for 43,538 tons, ordered to Uljanik by a Spanish owner, was delivered under the name of this NAUTILUS. Transmadrid archieved the first lines of credit with major Spanish and Croatians banks and CESCE (Spanish Company of Insurance Export Credits) coverage. Aleksandar Hajduka contributed with the idea of a complex financing as the only viable solution. The loans for the financing of equipment and materials were provided by Spanish banks with the guarantee of the CESCE. It was agreed to use the credit line opened by Banco Santander, Privredna Banka and the Bank of Istria. Thanks to these credits the delivery of 19 Spanish products could be made. Those products were: metal and paint, cables, propellers, pumps, etc. This project opens a new chapter in relations between Spanish and Croatian companies. Beyond, Transmadrid will organize various metal deliveries to other Croatian shipyards.
NAUTILUS was delivered to its owner in 1998.Between 2002 and 2006, the shipyard Uljanik Pula built a fleet of ships to the same owner. Other deliveries were: the construction number 455 (MATHEOS), a vessel for petroleum and chemicals, with a capacity of 45,999 tons; the 456 (MARCOS), also for the transport of petroleum and chemicals, the 457 (LOUKAS), the third in the series; and finally the 458 (IOANNIS), the fourth and last of the series, delivered in 2006. Thus ended a very successful phase in which the Uljanik shipyard built and delivered a series of seven product carrier type vessels for the Spanish customer. These boats, in which it dominates the quality and safety of its construction and of which the Spanish shipping were very satisfied, are currently sailing in international waters.
The activity, work and tenacity developed by Transmadrid in collaboration with Sopromar favored the exportation of the Croatian industry in very difficult times for the nation. This confirmed the philosophy always maintained by Transmadrid: despite the sometimes conflicting point of view, the Croatian shipbuilding industry needed to be supported as a “benchmark” of high quality and as the best ambassador for our business opportunities.