Jørgen Lundbaek calls Laem Chabang or rather Pinthong Industrial Estate in Chonburi home to his company Mermaid Maritime, just a short drive from the new harbour. Here he presides over his Asian headquarters, comprising three large buildings totalling 18,000 square meters.
How Lundbæk himself ended up in Thailand, is a longer story. After finishing school in Denmark a young Jørgen jumped on a Maersk ship which took him as far as Hong Kong where he jumped ship in 1965, eventually ending up in Thailand.
“I came here via Vietnam to have a month long holiday on November 2nd in 1966 – and I never left,” he says, giving the short version of his story before moving on to the longer version.
R & R
After leaving Maersk, Jørgen got a job working for the American Marines, transporting equipment on tugboats up in-country rivers in Vietnam.
“Moving ammo and that kind of stuff,” he explains.
But one day Jørgen decided enough was enough and it was time to move on. So he quit his risky job and headed to Thailand for a month of ‘R&R’.
During this month he meet an American, who convinced him to start working on ships, transporting army equipment from Sathahip to Bangkok, which he did for two years.
“Then the company lost its contract with the American military and the route was cancelled,” he remembers.
After this Jørgen had enough of ships for a while and began working for a construction company, which was building a dam deep inside the Thai jungle. But life on land and especially in the jungle was not something Jørgen really enjoyed.
“It was fun for the first days. But when you live in the same trailer, see the same people and the same bulldozers day after day it gets to you. Anyway, three months in the jungle is enough for anyone,” he grins.
13 years to see the light
After his time in the jungle Jørgen returned to shipping and with two others, started a company called Marine Surveyors in 1969. During his time with the surveyors, Jørgen got the idea for Mermaid Maritime.
“The captains always wanted us to extent their certificate for another 3 months, as no Companies were carrying out Safety Equipment Services in Thailand.” It actually took me all the time between ‘69 and 1982 to realize that this was what I should do.”
So he started Mermaid Maritime along with another Dane, who is now owner of the Boathouse on the Jomtien Beach in Pattaya.
The main goal was to check safety equipment in order to renew safety certificates for maritime customers.
“When we started, we were the only ones doing this in Thailand – and we still are today,” Jørgen says proudly.
When the company started Jørgen and his partner did all the work themselves. This included the underwater checkups and repairs, thus Jørgen is no stranger to the intricacies of industry and his seven diving ships hold no mysteries either.
In 1990 the Dane, who Jørgen Lundbæk started Mermaid Maritime with, sold out and another two Danes entered.
Namely the brothers Claus & Kim Jørgensen from Roskilde. Both Brothers have now sold their shares to Thailand-based shipping company Thoresen Thai Agencies, as they have called it quits and retired. Thoresen, the largest shipping company in Thailand, is now the majority shareholder.
Before Thoresen brought the Jørgensen-brothers’ shares the company already owned 50 percent of the shares in Mermaid. Shares Thoresen aquired in 1996, when the company first showed interest in Mermaid Maritime.
The reason Mermaid chose to sell 50 percent to Thoresen in the first place is quite reasonable – the offer was too good to refuse!
“We spoke to the Norwegian Mr. Teigen, who at that time was the owner of Thoresen, and he asked us if we wanted to make a joint venture. We talked about it and he said he was interested in buying. He made it clear that the price didn’t matter, as long as we didn’t just put the money in our pockets, but left it in the company,” Jørgen remembers.
“From that day on, the company had so much money that we could go out and buy a lot of new things. We invested in diving systems and the rest is history. Today we operate seven ships, four of which we own. And we have two drilling tenders which are our own,” Jørgen adds with a smile.
“Back in the old days, when we tried to borrow money the banks looked at us, as if were we crazy. Today they come to us asking if we want to borrow!”
Further on Mermaid Maritime:
Mermaid Maritime Takes Off
Mermaid Maritime Can Work Under Pressure With Latest Acquisition