Tomini Group – Keeping Crew Ship Shape
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted all our lives, but the impact of lockdowns and travel restrictions is felt all the more keenly at sea.
Tomini is a ship-owning business with diversified interests in classic cars and plant machinery. The company’s cultural heritage is deeply ingrained with its history in the transportation sector. The Group is wholly owned by the Shaikh family, who have been involved in every aspect of the shipping market for 70 years, including ownership and technical management.
“Our vision is simple – to be the most trusted partner in global transportation and maritime services to our clients guided by our values and our commitment to safety, corporate responsibility and sustainability,” says Numair Shaikh, CEO of Tomini Group. “Our business philosophy is built on trust and building deep relationships that focus on long-term cooperation with our partners and clients. Our experienced teams in the UAE, Denmark and India work to create the highest level of value, reflecting our belief that diversity drives creativity, collaboration and understanding of client needs.”
Tomini brings quite a few unique selling points to the table. The company has an extremely young fleet, the average age of which is around three years, making the Group an extremely competitive option for charterers and operators alike. The vessels that were part of Tomini Group’s own new build project (10 UMX and 2 KMX) have an even younger average age and were built to a very high technical and quality standard as modern eco ships, essentially the top of the range for the segment Tomini operates in.
“Furthermore, I am very proud to say that we perform all functions ourselves, in-house, that includes technical and commercial management, crewing, procurement, even victualing, which is very uncommon in this modern day of ship owning,” Shaikh tells us. “Having all functions within our control ensures we have that extra focus on quality and performance, something you lose when outsourcing to third parties”.
Tomini Group’s ships are crewed by high calibre professionals with the technical capability to carry out their roles effectively, but also people who share Tomini Group’s values. The company recruits accordingly.
“At Tomini what we do is as important as how we do it!” Shaikh says. “Our values underpin how we show up each day for our clients, colleagues and community. I am passionate about making sure Tomini is a great place to work, together with my team we work to create an environment that is a safe place of expression and empowers our people to show up as their authentic selves. We encourage our people to get out of their comfort zone and experiment with new ways of doing things and support them with providing the tools they need, to have maximum impact – be it coaching, mentoring or training programs.”
All at Sea
However, in the last two years, those crews and Tomini as a whole have faced possibly their greatest challenge. When the pandemic began countries started to shut borders and all but put a stop to the movement of people, and critically for Tomini, the movement of seafarers.
“The biggest story in shipping is the crewing crisis,” Shaikh says simply. “We haven’t been able to travel the world like we used to with weekend trips to Spain or backpacking in Thailand, but our crew are still on board hurrying our cargo from A to B around the world.”
Contracts generally range from four to nine months depending on the rank and seniority of the crew, but Covid led to crews on board Tomini’s vessels that could not be signed off for up to a year. It was a highly untenable position to be in, from the viewpoint of seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing, as well as vessel operational safety.
“We don’t want them on ships for that long,” Shaikh says. “It’s not good for anyone when crew can’t sign off within their usual contract duration, least of all the crew themselves! But world governments, agencies, weren’t and aren’t doing enough to give these people the ability to move from country to country.”
Of course, in any pandemic, the priority is preventing the spread of the virus, and Tomini Group has worked hard to avoid it gaining ground on its ships.
“The main thing is fighting the virus. We have done on vessel vaccinations, in countries like America where they have one shot to make the crew fully inoculated,” Shaikh says. “We started a vaccination drive, sourcing and planning vaccination wherever possible, with a number of ships now vaccinated out of the fleet. We have vaccinated eight vessels so far.”
Beyond that, Tomini Group’s first responsibility is to take care of its crew. Tomini Group is directly connected to its crew as ship owners, so when it has been operationally impossible to do any crew change the company has focused on being transparent and open as it worked to repatriate its crews back to their home countries.
“Crew that are not on-board but are part of our pool are being encouraged to get vaccinated, all on our account,” Shaikh tells us. “We also have to maintain massive planning proactiveness, having to think many, many steps ahead, as border rules can change in an instant!”
Crew welfare is also the main focus for Tomini, after seeing it compromised and under threat during the pandemic as the global powers and nations refuse to give seafarers the recognition of essential workers which they very much deserve and Tomini has campaigned for.
“We started to engage in information sharing and thought circulation on mental health and awareness to give our crew some tools to help them cope with what they are experiencing on an individual basis, as well as being consistently in touch with our vessels to help them with whatever they may be going through,” Shaikh says.
Tomini Group has also provided support on the lighter side, running photography and fitness competitions.
“It’s about keeping that soft touch when the crew are on board,” Shaikh says. “They feel we look after their needs.”
While Tomini Group is navigating through these difficult waters, Shaikh is also looking to the future of the company – replenishing the company’s fleet and looking at how it can address sustainability.
“Being a company that has drawn much of its success from operating on a counter-cyclical basis, we are very much actively looking in the second-hand market to see if we can expand on our existing fleet with some nice value proposition ships,” Shaikh says. “Furthermore, keywords for the shipping industry at large that you will see being thrown around are ‘decarbonisation’, ‘IMO2023’, ‘EEXI and CII’, which are all essentially saying that our industry, like the entire world, has to and is taking the environment and our level of emissions as a consequence very seriously.”
From 2023 onwards ships will be rated and valued basis their energy and carbon emissions efficiency, which is a future challenge Tomini Group has been and continues to prepare for.
It comes back to Tomini Group’s unique selling points, as Shaikh points out, “Having such a young and modern eco fleet puts us in an enviable position when considering emissions efficiency and carbon pollution and we are planning our operational and growth strategy to ensure that our fleet continues to perform and succeed at the highest level.”