Theories on optimal ownership structures for capital assets are like the shipping markets — they go in cycles.

Since workboats are often ancillary to some larger business mission, I am always scanning the business news for clues about company architecture. One shipping magazine interviewed Mike Tusiani, who runs the tanker and commodities brokerage Poten & Partners. In views expressed earlier this year at Intertanko’s gathering in New York, Tusiani offered the view that tendencies towards outsourcing of technical functions, which have increased with the advent of public companies striving for profits, might come back in-house if something catastrophic were to happen, reversing a longstanding trend.

Interestingly, in a real mega transaction, Kinder Morgan, the energy logistics giant, is actually bringing a group of partnerships back into a big corporate entity. The deal has nothing to do with casualties like oil spills or vessel collisions. The reason for the deal is financial. A corporate structure (rather than a complicated web with partnerships) will lead to certain tax benefits and perhaps a lower cost of capital.

In the financial press, I’ve been reading about merger fever. In analyses of Kinder Morgan, commentators talk up the idea that this behemoth entity may go after large logistics assets. One observer,’s Daniel Dicker (a one-time oil trader) in an interview with MSNBC pundit Jim Cramer, suggested that Kinder Morgan is getting ready for a massive infrastructure play for moving around large quantities of U.S. produced oil and products. Earlier this year, Kinder Morgan bought a Jones Act tanker company.

So, what might be next?


A collection of stories from guest authors.