London: Dr Helmut Sohmen, the chairman of tanker and offshore giant BW Group, was honoured last night with Seatrade’s most prestigious prize, the Lifetime Achievement Award
‘Sohmen was presented with the hand-blown glass trophy at a gala dinner bringing a flourish to proceedings at the 21st Seatrade Awards held at London’s 900-year-old Guildhall. Sohmen has had a varied career, including running an airline and dabbling in diplomacy. When he took over from legendary WorldWide tanker owner, Sir YK Pao, his father-in-law, he took on management of one of the world’s largest tanker fleets at a time of awful freight rates. He proceeded to scrap huge volumes of ships. In his 30-plus tenure of the company though he has brought the firm back so that it has even surpassed Pao’s tonnage levels. Sohmen bought out many firms, most notably Bergesen in 2002 for $1.5bn, which led to the company being rebranded BW. Controversially, he shifted operational headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore in the 1990s. The multi-award winning group now has wide interests including FPSOs, LNG, tankers and VLOCs. This year Sohmen became the first shipowner to speak at the Singapore National Maritime Lecture, following on from Lee Kuan Yew in 2007 and IMO head Efthimios Mitropoulos in 2008, the latter of whom was once again a judge and an ever present at the London ceremony yesterday. Mitropoulos described last night’s event as the best yet in the awards’ 21-year history, while Sohmen warned the audience to act prudently and above board in these tough times.