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Lubmarine 70th anniversary logo with a barge in background

From relatively humble beginnings lubricating 40 vessels, Lubmarine has grown into a truly global business with a full range of marine lubricants available in 1,000 ports globally.


From identifying opportunities in emerging markets globally to meeting cultural, geographical and political challenges, the business has grown as a result of its people and their drive, ambition and entrepreneurial spirit as told through the words of our general managers who recall their experiences in overseeing that growth.


Establishing Lubmarine as a presence on the international shipping stage took time and tenacity as former General Manager Jean-Claude Smadja highlights:


“Our competitors included Castrol, Texaco, Mobil, Exxon, Shell and BP. These were large, well established international businesses. We were not really seen as being on the international stage. Elf Lubmarine at this period of time was not like Lubmarine is today. It was small compared to the competitors who were directly established in the main shipping areas of the world.


“We firstly had to be present in most ports in the world and we had to be very competitive from a technology, quality and performance level along with the technical assistance and the prices we could deliver,” he said.


As the business grew across Europe, new, emerging markets were identified, ones that have since become established at the powerhouses of the global shipping market.


On Developing the Asian Markets


“We were always looking at where growth markets were going to emerge to see how we could align ourselves to these. As an example of this was when I took the General Manager role and we did no business in China at that time. This was one of the changes we made – it took us 2 years to get the first vessels lubricated but we did it by 1984,” says André Graille.


“There were no interior flights in China so all of our trips were made on trains. Once we left Beijing it was impossible to make contact with the outside world. There was no telephone, no fax. So we would head into China and effectively disappear for 10 days to 2 weeks on business!


“We could not meet with the Chinese in meetings without the Red Guard being at the table, which caused quite a lot of complications as everything had to be explained to them in detail as they were struggling to understand the content of the conversations! One contract negotiation in Shanghai lasted 2 days as a result of this way of having to work,” recalls André.


According to Jean-Claude Smadja the Asian market was a critical one to be part of as it really started to make its mark.


“We set up the Hong Kong office in 1993 – this was a major development. We could see that Asia was becoming and going to become the main area for global shipping - mainly containerships at that time.


“I had to convince the top managers that we needed the office in Hong Kong.


“If we wanted to be a significant actor in this market we had to make the move or the big shipping companies would not be an option for us and ultimately we would not have a marine lubricants business in the future,” he said.


Investment in Research and Development


Supporting customers technically has been a central part of the Lubmarine approach over the 7 decades since the company was founded. David Bleasdale recalls the impact this had from Lubmarine’s reputation perspective in the shipping industry following the decision to significantly increase our investments in the research centre in Solaize in 2002.


“That was a major commitment by the group to do that and really gave us a way of further developing and building on quality technical services to back up our story of product excellence.


“This first step enabled us to say we had a million-dollar commitment into the research and quality of our lubricants which gave us a marketing message that put us up there with the more established names at the time.


“Through that, we reinforced our Talusia range – meeting the needs of customers more closely that again, put us alongside the majors,” added David.


70 years on from our launch, our ambitions to grow through the expertise and drive of our teams around the world burn as brightly as ever.

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