Location Spotlight: Seaboard Overseas Limited IOM

Location: Isle of Man (IOM)

Affiliate: Seaboard Overseas Limited

Year opened: Bermuda office opened as an operational office in 1967 until 2011, although not always fully operational. In 2011 SOL moved the operations to the IOM.

Products/Services offered by SOL: Grains, Animal Feed raw materials, Oilseeds, Pulses and other commodities.

A normal day in SOL:

In a commodity trading and shipping environment, nothing is ever ‘normal’ but a snapshot of a few departments’ daily activities in the Isle of Man office which is considered the ‘Head Office’ of the SOL business follows.   While the IOM is the focus, we have trading offices that are integral to our business operations in the following countries:

Isle of Man
South Africa
Kenya
Greece
Singapore
Colombia
Peru
Ecuador
South Korea
North Carolina
Canada
Commodity Trading

From the perspective of an Isle of Man trader, a typical day would begin between 7:30-8:00 am. Initial activities include checking emails from the overnights and catching up on international news in relation to agricultural products and trade-related activities within our industry.  This is to ensure we have enough information to properly inform clients and affiliates alike.  In addition, the group discuss the market closes, hedging positions and share general thoughts.

Next, between 10:00-14:00, numerous calls are made by the traders to various directions around the world to commence price discovery and determine the most eager grain originators and/or clients (i.e. determining demand/supply on any given day). Throughout the day, Trading will be liaising with Seaboard’s internal chartering department to ensure that we are up to date and always market relevant, armed with sharp prices for the various destinations / markets that the Isle of Man office oversees.

The markets that the IOM Traders cover are:

Eastern Mediterranean
North Africa
West Africa
Caribbean

IOM Traders serve both affiliated companies that have flour milling and/or feed operations as well as a book of 3rd party customers.  SOL-IOM also manage and operate seven bulk vessels (4 x 28k deadweight tonnage + 3 x 18k deadweight tonnage) which predominately serve the markets named above.

Between 14:30-18:30, the IOM Trade team are monitoring the US futures markets as well as hedging the Seaboard physical grain book.  3rd party clientele are usually afternoon/evening buyers, and the bulk of our discussions with them are held between this time frame.  Procurement of grain also generally takes place later in the afternoon once full market discovery is known.  The Traders continue monitoring email/skypes/WhatsApp/telephone calls until late in the evening – sometimes right before the head hits the pillow!

Challenges Faced

Challenges the Isle of Man Trader faces on a daily basis would be:

Communication between the Isle of Man office and the markets/destinations served, telecommunications, mobile services, and Wi-Fi connections may be limited to some geographical locations.
Due to fluctuating Forex and limited supply of currency in some markets, the Isle of Man trader has additional obstacles to overcome in the form of payment instruments to secure affiliate procurements.
Political instability where procurement tonnage has been ordered and loaded but due to local political uncertainty, the local client has been unable to grind sufficient quantities to receive the cargo – resulting in the burden for the IOM Trader to try and find alternative destinations for the product at the least cost to Seaboard.
Trade Management

On a daily basis the Executive would amongst other things, scrutinize MTM values, Position Reports and discuss with Senior Trade leads globally any challenges, strategies or issues.

Shipping

The logistics to ship our commodities requires careful and close collaboration between our Shipping Departments (IOM and Athens), to ensure on time raw material supply to our customers.   Whilst our global offices charter some 200+ vessels per year, the IOM office utilizes our 7 owned vessels and charters many other vessels too.  The IOM Senior Vice President provides technical training and coaching to the junior team on all matters pertaining to vessels and chartering.  This includes laytime, vessel stowage and stability, disputes, bunker supplies etc.  In addition, the IOM works in close collaboration with technical/crewing ship management companies.

This critical element of our businesses on a global basis, required that the operators and leads are on call 24/7 to deal with urgent matters from captains, agents and technical managers.

Operations

The Operations Department in the IOM covers all aspects of a vessel’s voyage from the point of loading when Shipping transfers the file to this department through to the successful discharge at our customer’s facility and/or port.  This department is critical as they face challenges daily and manage every eventuality and challenge regarding the voyages of the ships under their control. Important information such as daily positions, loading, discharging is monitored.

On a daily basis, the team can be dealing with a number of vessels they monitor the status of the vessels and update customers of the ETA (Expected time of arrival).  In addition, bunker fuel is monitored, potential weather delays, arranging bunker stems, liaising with Captain’s where necessary.  In the IOM there are three operators and generally, each will handle at least two vessels at any given time.

Over and above the vessel operations, the Operators will review new freight fixture terms against physical purchase/sales contracts and advise any discrepancies to Chartering/Trading and to verify all vessel certificates are in good order for nomination pf a vessel.  In addition, Operators are responsible for all documentation including payment methods, contracts, logistics, payment to shippers as well as invoicing to our customers.

Accounting

Life is never dull in the Accounting Department.  Daily focus is on payments, receiving and allocation of funds, processing the myriad of invoices that come through and answering general queries.  At month ends, things pick up at a rapid pace when it is all ‘hands on deck’ to ensure Corporate deadlines are met and ensuring control procedures have been met.

How many employees/collaborators work at SOL?

23 people work in the Isle of Man office BUT the SOL Trading Group globally, employs a little over 200 people.

What is the latest project or improvement SOL went through?

The integration of the newly acquired Eurafrique trading office in Monaco as a result of the Seaboard investment in the Mimran Group.

Are there any new projects developing in SOL?

Current projects include the feasibility study to increase our footprint in the soybean crushing industry in South Africa.

What makes SOL unique or different to others?

Our in-depth knowledge of our customers’ business and understanding of the daily challenges that they face. This is both for affiliates and third-party customers alike.

What was the last social event, gathering, or celebration at SOL?

The last social event was our annual Christmas party in December 2017 when we were joined (as has been customary for the last few years) by colleagues from the Greece office.

 

How’s life in Isle of Man? Weather, economy, infrastructure, traffic, government, society, etc.?

The Isle of Man enjoys predominately wet westerly winds in winter when the effects of frost and snow are tempered by the surrounding waters of the “warm” Gulf Stream, with mild long summer days due to its northerly latitude.

The Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom. It is a Crown Dependency which has its own laws, courts, and government. The Government on the Isle of Man is a parliament called Tynwald. Tynwald is over a 1,000 year old and believed to be the oldest continual parliament in the world!

There is a mix of culture and people from the native Manx to immigrants from the UK, Ireland, Europe and South Africa. The island is as mixed as the United Kingdom and flourishes because of it. The Manx are of Celtic and Viking descent which has greatly affected the culture on the island, although most people have stopped wearing their horned Viking helmets to the office!

Today the island finds its economy based mainly around financial services, E-gaming and Shipping. Agriculture and fishing still prove a valued asset, as do other smaller industries. Some of the more unusual industries include a film studio and a thriving space industry. The Isle of Man strives to look ahead and plan its future to include the best of modern technology.

What is special about the Isle of Man? Touristic spots or interesting things to see and do, etc.

The Isle of Man is a place of great natural beauty and history which lies in the Irish Sea between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In 2016 UNESCO designated the Isle of Man a Biosphere Reserve (one of five in the UK) marking it out as one of the most beautiful spots in Britain to enjoy nature. The peace and quiet is shattered during the world-famous summer season of Tourist Trophy (TT) motorbike racing, which attracts around 50,000 bike fans every May and June.