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Johnson Stevens Agencies sold to high-flying Kestrel

One of the UK’s largest liner agency companies, Johnson Stevens Agencies, has gone into administration and a large chunk of the business has been sold to Andrew Thorne, owner of rival Kestrel Liner Agencies. European Union sanctions against its one-time principal, IRISL and the subsequent loss of bank facilities forced the company into administration on 19 May. The lines formerly represented by Johnson Stevens, set up by chairman and managing director Derek Johnson in 1976, will in future be represented by a new company, JSA Global, under the umbrella of Kestrel Liner Agencies. The main exception is the short-sea Unifeeder business, whose principals have moved quickly to set up their own representation in the UK. Other mainly freight forwarding and NVOCC businesses owned personally by Derek Johnson will continue operating independently. Andrew Thorne said JSA Global would be run as a separate business based in Felixstowe, although he anticipated that it would move from the plush former Johnson Stevens offices to “a location more suited to the realities of the liner shipping business”. Eight staff at the Felixstowe office have been confirmed as transferring to the new owners, and Mr Thorne said that he hoped that others would also find employment in the new company. The former Johnson Stevens office in Dover, with seven staff, would also be retained, he added. Kestrel Liner’s main base is in Basildon, and it also has offices in Aberdeen, Hull and Manchester. The company was started 17 years ago as a two-man operation by Mr Thorne,

Kestrel’s Andrew Thorne

ironically after he left his job at Johnson Stevens. However, he paid tribute to his former boss, describing Derek Johnson as “one of the few great characters left in shipping” and as a great personal mentor. Although there had been fierce rivalry between Johnson Stevens and Kestrel in the early years of the latter’s existence, now was the time to forget differences and work together, said Mr Thorne. “I would like to combine Kestrel’s business acumen with JSA’s long-standing operational experience,” he said. David Merrygold, joint administrator at PKF, said that the underlying problem at Johnson Stevens Agencies was the decision by the banks to withdraw finance after the company became the subject of a trade embargo through its representation of Iran’s IRISL Line. It is understood that Johnson’s Stevens’ former bank withdrew funding at short notice, forcing the company to

seek an alternative, but without success. He added that he did not envisage any significant delays to payments or disbursements under the new arrangements. A statement on the Johnson Stevens website said that outstanding invoices for WEC Lines, Iscont Lines, Nile Dutch and Cido sailings that had left port before 18 May or were physically in the port on that day would be settled by the adminstrators while those for ships that had arrived in port after 18 May would be dealt with by JSA Global. Thorne added that all principals represented by JSA Global were happy with the new arrangement and that there were no serious conflicts of interest with Kestrel Liner Agencies. “We’ve spoken to the principals and they’re all very happy. If you had put together two liner agencies and found that there was one line where there was no conflict of interest, that would be great – but to find four or five is really outstanding.” Kestrel’s portfolio includes Cargo Levant serving North Africa, Ecuadorian Line, Empros Lines to the Middle East, Nirint Shipping to Cuba, Tropical Shipping, UAL to West Africa and Copenship to South/East Africa. Baltic & European, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kestrel Liner Agencies, also represents Europe Caribbean Line. Kestrel, a Queen’s Award for Industry winner, will now have a portfolio of around a dozen liner services, making it one of the UK’s largest companies in its sector. Moreover, Mr Thorne said that he hoped shortly to announce

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Lines in cartel probe

Illegal trade unmasked

New port for North-West

Malta North East

Shipper’s Voice:

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FEATURES 19 31 17

Derivatives IT

Equipment Corner

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Freight Break 36

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