A Q&A with Lois Zabrocky, CMA’s 2020 Commodore

Written by Heather Ervin
Lois Zabrocky, CMA Commodore of the Year
Zabrocky has been president and CEO of International Seaways, one of the world’s largest tanker companies, since 2016.
Lois Zabrocky

Lois Zabrocky, CEO of International Seaways Inc., will be the next person to be crowned with an admiral’s hat when she steps into the role of the Connecticut Maritime Association’s (CMA) Commodore for the year 2020.

Zabrocky has been president and CEO of International Seaways, one of the world’s largest tanker companies, since 2016. Before assuming leadership for International Seaways, she served as senior vice president for the predecessor company’s international flag strategic business unit, where she was responsible for commercial management and oversight of fleet operations.

Previously, she was chief commercial officer for the company, where she was tasked with overseeing its international flag crude, products and gas businesses. Zabrocky currently serves on the Board of ITOPF Ltd., an industry based, not-for-profit ship pollution response adviser.

The award will be presented April 2, 2020, at the conclusion of the CMA’s Shipping 2020 Annual Conference & Exposition in Stamford, Conn. The award is given each year to a person who has contributed to the growth and development of the international maritime industry.

Marine Log recently spoke to Zabrocky to learn more about her contributions to the international maritime industry.

Marine Log (ML): When your predecessor company split into two, your side of the split took the international fleet. What does your fleet profile look like in terms of tonnage and average age?

Lois Zabrocky (LZ): Today, the Seaways tanker fleet has 42 ships including our FSO joint venture with an average age of around nine years. When Seaways split from OSG (Overseas Shipholding Group), the fleet was in need of investment and renewal. Throughout the downturn of the last couple of years, we were able to invest in fleet renewal at the right point in the cycle. This is the most important factor in bulk shipping: that your investment is spent at as close to the low point in the tanker cycle as possible.  

Seaways lowered its overall fleet age and upgraded its earnings power. We spent $600 million to buy nine ships, lowering our fleet age to below nine years from close to 12 years previously. Each of the nine ships that we purchased in 2017 and 2018 are now worth more than what we paid for them. 

Zabrocky has been president and CEO of International Seaways, one of the world’s largest tanker companies, since 2016.

ML: Do you see running an international fleet as more of a challenge than the Jones Act market? For instance, how have you responded to the situation in the Strait of Hormuz?

LZ: The international tanker business is highly dynamic. Our job is to affect all of the variables over which we have control and then problem solve the rest. Our business is impacted by geopolitical sanctions, the trade war, the world economy, and every manner of external factors. We continue to fully trade our fleet and load our ships in challenging areas after the operational team has conducted a proper risk assessment. 

ML: On IMO 2020, you fitted and have committed to scrubbers on 10 of your ships—your VLCCs. At this point, do you wish you had fitted more or is it still “wait and see” on bunker prices?

LZ: We have only partially concluded our scrubber installation program at this time. We are satisfied with fitting our 10 modern VLCCs with scrubbers as they represent about 40% of our overall fleet consumption. The bunker markets have been quite volatile reflecting underlying oil price fluctuations, and we believe this balanced approach to our fleet will serve us well going forward.

ML: What do you see as long-term prospects for the tanker market given that the world is trying to wean itself off of the fossil fuels that tankers carry?

LZ: Oil demand satisfies around a third of the world’s energy demand today, and forward projections for 2035 suggest that oil will continue to prove a vital component on the world energy stage into the future. Meanwhile, the efforts now being applied for carbon reduction are unprecedented and we believe there will be many new disrupting innovations that will transform the energy business in the next decade. We plan to be a part of the future of energy transportation.

ML: You’re being honored as the next CMA Commodore. Can you say a little about what this means to you?

LZ: I have been a member of CMA for over 20 years, and I have also made my home in Connecticut throughout my career. CMA is an organic and vibrant organization that is both a champion of education on behalf of the industry and a showcase for the top commercial and technical products on the market. It is an event that is a “must attend,” and I am so happy to be recognized by CMA!

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