Otto A. Müller Recycling since year 2000
2000 – Jens Ottmüller leads the newly founded company
2003 – Supplying power plants with ship loads of solid biomass
2005 – Entering the fertilizer market with new raw materials
2007 – Start of trading liquid biomass
2010 – Celebration of 10th anniversary of OAM Recycling
2011 – Moving office from Hamburg to Ahrensburg
2012 – Innovation – Recycling Phosphates from waste materials
2013 – Expansion in Non-EU countries
2016 – Focussing on bio-based materials for a circular economy
2017 – Trading with cenospheres
2018 – Exibition on upcycling and recycling 4.0
125 years history of Otto A. Müller
Coal Import from England
The Rebuilding after the War (1945-1956)
The distribution channels for coal regularized since 1939 are finally liberated in 1951. Endusers and traders are free to choose their suppliers. Hence, prices for fuels decrease. OAM now visits its customers on a regular basis, supports its salesmen with moderate advertising and hires the services of an independent surveillance institute for market research.
The same year, the British mines under the National Coal Board re-start their deliveries to Germany. Besides domestic coal which is no longer of high demand due to an adaptation from high-volatile coal of British origin to low-volatile coal coming from Ruhrkohle, OAM now supplies coal to HEW, Metallhüttenwerk Lübeck, Nordwest-deutsche Kraftwerke and other customers. Some American coal is imported as well.
The MS “FRIEDRICH S. MÜLLER” (1350 tdw), bought in 1953, is sold after only three years due to its apparently unprofitable construction. Another vessel ordered in 1955 at the Kremerwerft in Elmshorn and with 850 tons conceived to serve SchwarzhÜtten/Oste is enlarged while still under construction up to a capacity of 1300 tdw sailing as MS “ORTRUD MÜLLER” in 1956. The vessels mainly ship coal from Goole to Hamburg, Kiel and Lübeck returning in ballast.
Changing Markets (1957-1973)
Based on predictions for the development of the energy market it is expected that only imported coal will be able to compete. Users of industrial and domestic coal would most probably turn to fuel oil. The prognosis proves true and the conversion of the Hamburg fishing fleet, which has been supplied with 60.000 t of coal per year since 1950 through the Altona facility, is completed until 1964.
OAM is still importing coal from England under the restrictions of the decrees of 1957, mainly for the Hamburg Electricity Plants (HEW) and the Nordwestdeutsche Kraftwerke (NWK).
Heating Systems/Air Conditioner
With the levelling off of the coal business, OAM engages also in other new ventures. Günther Stamer & Co., started as a technical consultant company and later specialised in building heating systems, gets into troubles in 1960 due to mismanagement, and, as a consequence, OAM stops this business. With some of the remains and know how a new company is established. Together with Arnold Polenz and OAM as minority shareholder a production of a new product is started: air-conditioners, making the company one of the early leaders in this trade.
Since 1962, OAM experiments with centrifuges for drying peat as alternative fuel, later with even more specialised machines. But no profit is shown on this one and OAM drops the idea.
With its know-how gained in trade, transport and handling of bulk goods OAM starts in 1964 to supply fine gravel, mainly coming from quarries in England. The introduction of pre-stressed concrete and the change in the production of concrete observed in the central mixing facilities lead to a higher demand on the gravel market than the Schleswig-Holstein Gravel Pits as the traditional supplier is able to cover. Thus, OAM transports and handles over a period of 10 years gravel sucked from the bottom of the Baltic by Danish dredgers and refined by the Rathjens-Group.
As regards the shipping activities, OAM shows a growing discontent with the traditional ways of calculation (voyage estimates). Comparaison of voyage estimated with effective earnings only allow an inadequate analysis of factors that have led to losses or gains and give indications what improvements should be made. With new simple statistics charterers are able to review their decisions mainly dictated by the market. Consistent machine-refined data collection would allow insights into business leading to higher efficiency of vessels in the European maritime business.
From 1958 to 1963 OAM employs five time-charter vessels of 700 tdw each engaged to ship coal and fertilizers. At the same time, OAM’s own fleet, i.e. three vessels of 1400 tdw each, is increased by the “BIRGIT MÜLLER”, 815 tdw/built in 1960. Two years later the “RETHI MÜLLER”, 1550 tdw, joins the fleet. In 1964, the “ORTRUD MÜLLER” is sold, followed by “GRETCHEN MÜLLER” and “ELSE MÜLLER” in 1965 due to rising costs for repairs.
OAM is forced in 1967 by the crisis in coastal shipping to review its industrial management resorts. Traditionally, the market values an offer for time-charter by calculating the price per tdw. OAM develops calculations where apart from loading capacity speed performance, volume, construction of hatches and holds and measurements are considered. The objectively determined profitability (opportunity cost) of the vessels allow a comparison of profitability between ships of similar construction. OAM proposes to other ship-owners to put their ships to work together with those of the OAM-fleet pooling the profits and redistributing them in relation to the earning capabilities of their vessels.
The Renaissance of Coal
A tragic incident in 1982, the explosion on the MS “KAPETAN GEORGIS” on its way from Sydney to Hamburg with a cargo of DEVCO-coal, leads to a temporary crisis of DEVCO coal sales. Having steered the vessel for Rotterdam as port of refuge, the coal is discharged into storage, being arrested and released only four months later. This enables a great number of German power plants mainly located in the Rhine area, to test samples of this high quality coal. In the following year, OAM achieves to place 700.000 t of DEVCO-coal in spite of a market recession for imported coal, exceeding by far the results of the previous years.
The shipowners united under the Euro-Minibulker-Pool since 1972 are able to counter the falling freight rates which follow the rather strong market in 1974 and 1975 lasting until 1979, through a relatively good contractual coverage. Due to this positive development other shipowners follow the Pool (Sylvia Cargo B.V., Turnbull Scott).
Exports of Nigerian coal is failing due to the inability of the Nigerians to organise the transport from the mine to Port Harcourt where it should be shipped to Europe.
Nigeria, by then, faces considerable difficulties in the handling of cargo. Sudden wealth from sharply increased oil prices leads to uncoordinated purchases of cement by various ministries and within a few weeks a fleet of several hundreds of vessels is assembled off Lagos, all waiting on demurrage for discharge causing losses of millions every day with no chance for the government to escape. The situation is chaotic and simple calculations show that it would be cheaper to throw the cement away or even sink the vessels than leave them waiting to get their turn for discharge.
Together with the Hamburg Port constructor Sellhorn OAM starts soil drilling, sounding and planning as well as negotiations with the Nigerian Government with regard to the construction of a conveyor port in the shallow protected lagoon area behind the chaotic city traffic of Lagos. Barges which are not employed any more for carrying gravel in Germany should be brought by OAM to Nigeria, shipping goods from incoming vessels to the area behind Lagos.
But the Government in Nigeria changes and the Prime Minister Gowon is overthrown. The new ministers still need some time and, finally, the order is placed with a Dutch company being faster in finding out the respective governmental official.
“COMCO” delivers barges, cranes, generators and other equipment to Jeddah totalling DM 10 Mio. but due to the inexperience with local conditions and the lack of co-operation of Baroom’s this joint-venture ends with a big loss in 1977 which can be recovered through a second contract by which the joint-venture Baroom takes control over the stevedores working on the vessels achieving better rates per ton and far better productivity. But Baroon still refuses payments causing, again, a considerable loss for OAM.
The Lübisch-Hanseatische Schiffahrtsgesellschaft is involved in a similar operation in the Port of Gizan from August 1978 till spring 1979. Along with 15 specialists coming from Germany, 600 workers are recruited in Pakistan. The performance meets the expectations. OAM does this job with little profit, thus proving that the failed operation in Jeddah can only be attributed on a small scale to mismanagement.
OAM Handel und Umschlag GmbH
Rising demands for building quality in buildings require building materials of top quality. Following this demand and in addition to its traditional business, OAM is able to supply the market with materials from large northern quarries, landed by selfdischargers. Due storage- and distribution facilities are being conceived by OAM. The outcome of these projections will highly influence the future development of the company.
Building Materials and Recycling
Rising demands for quality in buildings require building materials of top quality. Following this demand and in addition to its traditional business, OAM is able to supply the market with materials from large northern quarries, landed by self discharging vessels. Missing storage- and distribution facilities are being conceived by OAM. The outcome of these projections will highly influence the future development of the company.
At the beginning of the eighties OAM establishes the Bulkship (Nederland) B.V. in Haaren together with the Bulkship, S.A., Fribourg. The business of Bulkship Switzerland is handed over to Bulkship (Nederland) B.V. At that time, eight ship owners with a total of 32 ships belong to the Pool. By re-locating the Pool in the Netherlands, it is expected that other Dutch ship owners will join. Apart from the German fleet the Netherlands have the greatest number of ships suitable for the Pool in size and construction. The appointment of Holger Schween (former head of the OAM shipping agency) as managing director of Bulkship B.V. clearly demonstrates its function and importance.
Dissatisfied with the results of the shipping business in 1978/79, Turnbull Scott leaves the Pool in 1979 changing its whole business into brokering activities after a short interim. Hence, the Pool looses eight ships.
Parallel to this, new contacts can be established with Spanish ship owners who evidently have difficulties in finding connections to the North European freight market. The Pool can offer them a fair and adequate solution for their vessels. In 1986, the number of ships in the Pool is totalling 30, nine of which belong to Spanish ship owners. The collapse of the freight market in 1986/87 leads to severe actions from the financing banks especially in Spain. More than 500 ships are embargoed, in part suspended from business and sold to foreign countries, with great losses for the banks . None of the Pool vessels are being affected by these measures. Compulsory sales of Dutch and German ships by European banks do not affect ships in the Pool either. Some of the vessels sold by Spanish banks are brought later into the Pool by North European ship owners.
Communication problems, protectionism of the Spanish government and fears that the Pool would co-operate closely with the Spanish banks are leading in 1987 to irritations among the Spanish ship owners who leave the Pool after a short period of obstruction.
This setback is accompanied by the departure of a large part of the chartering staff from OAM, but after a few difficult years with a reduced fleet the Pool gathers momentum again. With the combination of a number of time-chartered newbuildings and a newbuilding program of the Pool partners, the Pool in the last decade of the century is equipped with a fleet of more than 20 vessels again. With most of the tonnage being more modern than ever, it is very attractive to both owners and charterers. After more than 20 years, it is now accepted as a solid basis even for financiers of ship mortgages.
Shipping activities of OAM
Acceptable freight rates and absurd tax allowances at the beginning of the eighties lead to intense shipbuilding activities in Germany. OAM develops the concept of a top-loader, but as calculations prove an insufficient profitability it remains conceptual. The steadily growing excess capacity in coastal shipping remains obscured by the British miners’ strike until 1984, but when it is over, the market collapses. With five vessels owned by OAM, the company faces falling profits and rising costs for foreign crew, worsened by the strengthening US-Dollar. Finally, OAM sells the vessels and closes down its ship managing department. An acceptable sales price is only achieved by offering a three years’ re-charter to the new owner. With a still falling market, this re-charter leads to further losses until they are finally redelivered at the end of the 80’s.
In the early 80’s, the Dutch shipping company Sylvia Cargo goes bankrupt. OAM takes over 50 % of two of the six ships renaming them MS “Silke” and MS “Elise”. The freight market recovers during the third quarter of 1987, allowing OAM to take over 75 % of two more ships and the remaining 25 % in 1988. One of these vessels is then sold to a Pool partner. Crewing and technical management are handled by a Dutch company.
Besides DEVCO as main supplier, OAM revives old connections to the British National Coal Board delivering British coal to cement factories in Germany and Switzerland. Logistics go to the timing of vessels’ arrival at Rotterdam in accordance with the time-table of the Swiss Federal Railway from Basel to the cement factories. ‘Singles’ are obtained from Scotland for greenhouse-gardeners who have switched to coal combustion after the second oil crisis in 1981.
Especially in the second half of the eighties, OAM has to prevail against a concentration process within the German coal importing industry. The entry of the financially potent oil companies into this segment of the power market along with the shrinking German import market (“Jahrhundertvertrag”) lead to stronger competition leaving OAM in 1989 the only independent coal importer in the German Federal Republic.
Coal flying High
The Asian Crisis dominates the raw material (and indeed shipping-) markets from 1998 onwards.
At Devco severe mining disruptions due to geological problems lead to another severe cut back of operations. The hope for Devco to come back to the export market seizes completely.
One after another Russian coal mine is bought up by the new conglomerates of the new Russian industrial magnates drying out the supplies for OAM.
Indonesia, after a sharp devaluation of their currency and an over supply of coal in the pacific region becomes even more keen to place tonnage on the European market. OAM makes contacts with a variety of suppliers for large vessels, the only economic way to haul the coal over the long distance. After a number of efforts eventually a shipment of a self loading vessel is agreed with one of the smaller independent producers.
In a nerve-racking balance between hope and disaster the vessel waits 3 moth’s before she is loaded. The demurrage bill leaves the Indonesian supplier bankrupt but the coal eventually arrives in the Rostock power plant.
In 2003 OAM Coal Trade buys South African Coal through a source in the Czech Republic. The Coal is sold to some German utilities but it is not delivered. With a second purchasing contract the coal is contracted with Russia, but the contract is frustrated as well and after the coal prices reach a historic peak with a world wide energy shortage OAM Coal Trade has to give up.
Difficult parting of good friends
Shipping back to Basics
As from 1998 till 2006 OAM operates a constant fleet of around 8-11 minibulkers, with the traditional north European bulk business being pursued with its loyal old and growing customer base.
In mid 2006 the world is faced with record high oil prices of US$ 75 per barrel meaning alarming bunker prices of some € 550, this compared with bunker prices in 1997 of say € 161, the extreme influence on the daily running cost becomes a major challenge to cope with in the subsequent years.
Four Newbuilding orders are being placed with Damen Shipyards in 2005 for deliveries between 2006 until 2008. The firs one, the “Blue Bay” starts it’s service in 11/2006.
Recycling: With new Ideas for Environment and Energy
In early 2000 Jens Ottmüller joins the OAM trading team. By November 2000 he leads the newly founded Otto A. Müller Recycling GmbH, focussing on new ideas for environment and energy. In picking up the raising demand for biofuels it solved complex sourcing-, trading- and transport-requirements of co-fireing in coal-fired power stations with high flexibility, personal efforts and the backup by OAM’s transport expertise.
Nowadays it is expanding internationally and engages in trading with biofuels for industrial and domestic purposes, fertilizers and by-products. Based on an expanding network and mutual trust, individual solutions for the unique needs of different industries are developed in close co-operation with suppliers and customers. Its target: Search for successful niches in the ever changing megamarkets of the energy-, food- and feedindustry.
Cease of shipping activites
In the mid of the 8th year of international shipping depression OAM Shipping and it’s closest partners have chosen to follow the hint given by their financiers and bankers to withdraw from the fight of survival in 2016.