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Shard Credit Partners goes on a Scottish road trip with JST Ports and Logistics Holdings Ltd

JST’s floating pier operation at Loch Etive

It is difficult to imagine a more idyllic work location than on the shoreline of Loch Etive in the Scottish Highlands. We are several hours drive from Glasgow, which is 104 miles southwest of here. The land quickly steepens away from the loch and in every direction mountains carved out from the granite complex of Etive rise up to meet the skyline.  Notable peaks include Ben Starav at 1,078 metres above sea level, visible in the photo above.

The area is sparsely inhabited, with the primary economic activities being tourism (hiking, fishing and deer stalking), shellfish harvesting, hydroelectric power generation and commercial forestry management. Timber production from sustainably managed forestry and timber processing is an important industry throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands, contributing nearly £771 million to Scottish GDP annually. In areas that are sparsely populated and far from urban centres, the Scottish timber industry provides full time employment for 19,555 people (source: Scottish Forestry).


Timber transportation and logistics industry, banks of Loch Etive
Timber transportation and logistics industry, banks of Loch Etive

Loch Etive, around twenty miles long, is a sea loch which runs approximately north-east to south-west and bisects a designated ‘wild land area’ of 507 km2, just south of Glencoe.  The area, largely uninhabited, is encircled by A roads (the A82 over Rannoch Moor and the A85 around Loch Awe), but the only vehicular access to the shores of the loch is via the twelve mile long single track Glen Etive road (made famous by the James Bond film ‘Skyfall’).  This makes the high volume transportation of felled roundwood timber from the woodlands to processing centres located around the UK and elsewhere challenging, to say the least.

Loch Etive Woods is a designated special area of conservation spanning 2,643 hectares.  60% of this area is taken up by broad-leaved deciduous woodland comprising of ash, hazel and sessile oak habitats, but 3.5% is coniferous woodland. The Scottish Forestry Commission manage a couple of hundred acres of commercial pine forests bordering the loch, harvesting 30,000 tonnes of roundwood timber per annum.  From here it must be transported tens, or hundreds of miles to processing centres as far afield as Birkenhead, where it can be turned into useful commercial products.


A cargo ship being loaded up with roundwood logs from JST’s floating pier at Loch Etive

Such remoteness, combined with restricted vehicular access, pits the needs of the Scottish forestry industry against the needs of local tourism, upon which the local economy also depends.  In order to prevent relentless summer traffic jams, clogging up single track lanes with articulated lorries transporting 25 tons per load of freshly harvested roundwood timber out of the forests and away to timber processing centres such as Fort William, alternative strategies must be seriously considered. JST Services (Scotland) Limited (“JST”), a portfolio investment company of Shard Credit Partners, has been innovating in this industry for several decades, becoming a reliable partner within the Scottish commercial forestry ecosystem.

Given the vast watery expanse of Loch Etive, which being a sea loch is conveniently linked to the open waters of the North Atlantic, transportation via ship provides a welcome alternative to road transportation. However, timber plantations can take several decades to mature, with relatively modest extraction volumes. This means it is uneconomical to construct and maintain a permanent pier or port infrastructure to moor sea vessels onto. To get around this, JST has invented the concept of the floating pier, which is movable, can be transferred from location to location by tug boat, and leaves virtually no impact on the local ecology when removed.  JST operates three floating piers at remote locations throughout the Scottish Highlands.


JST’s mobile cranes loading timber from its floating pier operations at Loch Etive

The floating pier (shown in the photo above) consists of a steel bridge, which is connected to the shoreline at one end and is mounted on a recommissioned barge at the other, with a strengthened surface so that it can take the weight of a fully loaded timber lorry and a large crane. The timber is driven over the bridge and onto the floating pier, where it is lifted straight off the lorry and into the hold of a waiting cargo ship. Each ship can accommodate between 900 and 2,500 tonnes of roundwood logs, which takes JST’s skilled crane operators between a half and one full day to load each vessel.

The annual CO2 savings from transporting felled timber by sea, rather than by road, are significant. Each year around 30,000 tonnes of logs are expected to be moved by ship from the floating pier at Glen Etive to saw-mills in northern Scotland and north-west England, where they are turned into FSC-certified timber products for fencing, landscaping, cladding, house construction and furniture.  Some 33 ships per year are expected to be moved from Glen Etive, producing an estimated 233 tonnes of CO2 when the final road miles and log handling equipment is factored in.  If these logs were instead to be transported solely by road, the equivalent CO2 impact would be around three times at around 640 tonnes, generating a net saving of approximately 317 tonnes of CO2 annually and removing around 317,000 HGV road miles – even ignoring the negative impact and cost from HGV’s using unsealed Highland single-track roads and the impact on the tourist economy.

The floating pier operation at Loch Etive is just one example of how JST is bringing innovation to the transportation and logistics sector to facilitate the decarbonisation of the UK forest products industry.  JST operates floating pier operations at two other locations in Scotland – one at Ardcastle on the western shore of Loch Fyne and another on the Morvern and Ardnamurchan Peninsulas in the West Highlands. In total, JST estimates its floating pier operations help to reduce emissions of CO2 produced as a result of timber transportation from Scotland to the rest of the UK by around 2,574 metric tonnes annually, saving 1.75 million HGV road miles per annum.

Continue reading “Shard Credit Partners goes on a Scottish road trip with JST Ports and Logistics Holdings Ltd”

JST Services (Scotland) Ltd completes acquisition of pier and haulage division of TSL Contractors Limited, Isle of Mull, West Coast of Scotland.

Roundwood timber being loaded onto a cargo ship at Fishnish Pier, Isle of Mull.


Shard Credit Partners’ investee company JST Services (Scotland) Ltd (“JST”) has acquired the pier and haulage division of TSL Contractors Limited (“TSL”), located on the Isle of Mull off the West Coast of Scotland. This strategic acquisition extends JST’s operations in the Scottish timber transportation and logistics industry. Approximately 50,000 tonnes of roundwood logs are loaded onto cargo ships at Fishnish pier each year, to be transported across the open sea to processing centres on the UK mainland.

JST is a unique provider of mobile port logistics and materials handling and transportation services at ports around the UK and Ireland. From its base in Ayrshire, South West Scotland, JST operates a fleet of mobile cranes, timber haulage vehicles, timber handling vehicles, and mobile port handling equipment. Much of its equipment has been developed specially with its clients and equipment manufacturers to undertake complex materials handling tasks, creating a unique IP and patent base.

TSL has operated Fishnish pier on an exclusive basis on the Isle of Mull since its construction in 2014 on behalf of the Scottish Forestry Commission (Forest and Land Scotland) which manages 470,000 hectares of Scotland’s forests and woodlands. TSL’s fleet of HGV’s haul around 50,000 tonnes of timber per year from the surrounding Mull forests to the pier, where it is loaded directly onto cargo ships for transport to timber processing facilities. This operation provides valuable economic activity in a sparsely populated area of the country, in addition to providing an essential service in the maintenance of the ecological supply-chain of the island.

The Fishnish pier activities on Mull are viewed as being particularly attractive to JST, not only from an economic perspective, but also from a strategic perspective. The integration of the Fishnish pier operation into the wider JST Floating Piers division strengthens its network and offering to customer engaged in sustaining the Scottish commercial forestry industry.

Richard Jennings, managing director of JST said:

“This strategic bolt on acquisition to JST’s Floating Piers division in Scotland will enable us to further expand our offering to key customers, especially the Scottish Forestry Commission”.

Alastair Brown, CEO of Shard Credit Partners, comments:

“this acquisition is strongly accretive and will help to accelerate JST’s expansion in the Highlands and Islands, complimenting recent strong organic growth achieved throughout the UK and Ireland since our investment in the business three years ago”.

Legal advice to JST was provided by Gateley Legal, led by Oliver Harker. Financial DD was provided by Azets, led by Graham Cunning and Joseph Sheridan.

Shard Credit Partners’ strategy is to become a leading provider of capital to entrepreneur and management-owned high growth businesses and private equity-owned companies focused on achieving transformational growth and expansion in the UK regions.  During the past five years, Shard Credit Partners has invested more than £150.0 million in supporting regional Management Buy-Out transactions throughout the UK regions and M&A buy-and-build acquisition strategies, as well as growth capital expenditure financing.

Continue reading “JST Services (Scotland) Ltd completes acquisition of pier and haulage division of TSL Contractors Limited, Isle of Mull, West Coast of Scotland.”

Alastair Brown interviews Richard Jennings, Managing Director of JST Services (Scotland) Ltd

In December 2020, Shard Credit Partners announced it had provided acquisition financing of £12.0 million in support of a management buy-in (“MBI”) acquisition of JST Services, led by new MD and port sector veteran, Richard Jennings.

Fast forward to September 2021 and Shard Credit Partners’ CEO, Alastair Brown, catches up with Richard Jennings, Managing Director at JST Services (Scotland) Ltd.

Below, Alastair interviews Richard on how JST Services (Scotland) Ltd has been operating since the acquisition, what achievements have been made, as well as what the future outlook looks like.

Shard Credit Partners completes its first buy-out investment in Scotland.

Shard Credit Partners announces its first investment in Scotland with signing and completion of a £12.0 million senior secured unitranche financing in support of a MBI acquisition of market-leading port handling and logistics company JST Services (Scotland) Ltd (“JST Services” or the “Company”) which completed on 6th December 2020.

Shard Credit Partners has provided acquisition financing of £12.0 million in support of a management buy-in (“MBI”) acquisition of JST Services, led by new CEO and port sector veteran Richard Jennings and Independent Port Capital Management Ltd (“IPC”), a Jersey-based port sector investor.  The MBI team in conjunction with Shard Credit Partners will undertake a buy-and-build acquisition strategy in the UK port logistics sector with JST Services at its core.

JST Services was formed in 1993 by John Scott and is the market-leader in providing flexible port-handling services throughout the UK and Ireland via its modern fleet of specialist mobile cranes, floating piers, road haulage vehicles, and maritime shipping services.  JST Services is headquartered in Ayr in South West Scotland.  Under John Scott’s ownership, JST Services has demonstrated an impressive track record of bringing design innovation and bespoke engineering solutions to the dry bulk and break-bulk cargo and materials handling sectors over several decades since inception.  The Company benefits from having a unique portfolio of patents and designs for its extensive range of specialist materials handling equipment, which is actively deployed on a daily basis throughout many of the UK’s ports.

The investment by Shard Credit Partners will enable JST Services to expand its core offering by providing funding for a series of bolt-on acquisitions, as the business provides a platform for consolidation in the UK’s highly fragmented port services industry.

Richard Jennings, the new CEO of JST Services said: “John Scott and the JST Services team have built a well-respected and highly successful business, which provides a solid platform for further strategic growth.  With the support of Shard Credit Partners, we are keen to scale the company by expanding our presence in the port services sector organically and through targeted M&A activity to enable more consolidation across the industry, offering greater confidence and continuity to our customers.”

Alastair Brown, CEO of Shard Credit Partners, commented: “This is an excellent opportunity for us to work closely with a dynamic new management team who can build on the substantial achievements of this innovative business.  We are confident that JST Services will be successful in overcoming the fragmentation of the UK port services sector through an M&A strategy that will lead to the creation of a network of operations that will give its customers a consistent and reliable single-source service across the UK and in time, further afield.”

Providing corporate finance advice to Shard Credit Partners and the MBI team was Newcastle-based corporate finance boutique RG Corporate Finance (“RGCF”), led by Partner and Head of Corporate Finance, Carl Swansbury, supported by Corporate Finance Senior Manager, Rhiannon Nightingale.  Business and transactional tax advice was provided by RG’s Business Tax Partner Simon Whiteside and Director, Simon Hopwood.  Financial and tax due diligence was conducted by RG’s Grahame Maughan, Andrew Cameron and Jon Routledge.

Legal advice to Shard Credit Partners was provided by Gateley Legal, led by Partners Andrew Madden and Andrew Cowan.

Rhiannon Nightingale, Corporate Finance Senior Manager at RGCF said: “This is a significant and technical transaction, bringing together a new management team and an experienced third-party funding provider that will ensure that JST Services has the resources and expertise required to embark upon the next stage of its scale-up journey.  As the business identifies potential acquisition targets and continues with its ongoing organic growth, it has the potential to significantly grow its market share.”

JST Services was supported legally by John Fulton and Andrew Fleetwood, Partners at Gilson Gray LLP, with financial and tax advice from William Duncan & Co, led by Managing Partner Robert Fergusson.

This transaction represents the first buy-out of a Scottish business financed by Shard Credit Partners.  It is also the sixth consecutive buy-out transaction financed by Shard Credit Partners in the North of England and Scotland in the past two years, making Shard Credit Partners one of the most active investors in the Northern English regions and Scotland currently.  It is currently working on further mandates in the North of England which it expects to complete by year end.

Shard Credit Partners’ strategy is to become a leading provider of capital to entrepreneur and management-owned companies focused on achieving transformational growth and expansion in the UK regions.  In the past two years, Shard Credit Partners has invested more than £80 million in supporting regional Management Buy-Out transactions and M&A buy-and-build acquisition strategies, as well as growth capital expenditure financing.


About Shard Credit Partners:

Shard Credit Partners is an alternative investment fund manager focused on private credit strategies in the UK lower mid-market.  Its funds seek to generate superior risk-adjusted returns from conservatively structured senior secured credit investments at low leverage, benefiting from robust documentation and a full suite of financial and non-financial covenants.  Shard Credit Partners is currently investing from its debut direct lending fund Shard Credit Partners Fund I, which held a first close in October 2017 at £90 million.  Shard Credit Partners plans to hold a first close on its second UK lower mid-market direct lending fund during the first half of 2021.

Shard Credit Partners invests in solid small to medium sized businesses with strong management teams, supporting them by providing transformative growth capital and event driven financing in support of innovation, growth and expansion.  The fund invests in businesses across all sectors and throughout the UK.  The firm has a strong ESG focus; in particular, it is a strong supporter of female entrepreneurs and firms with meaningful female leadership and senior management.

Recent investments include the innovative double MBO of BW Legal and PRAC Financial in Leeds, which was named by Insider Media as their Deal of the Month for February 2019.  In the same month the fund also backed the primary MBO of GadCap Technical Solutions Ltd in Newcastle.  In September 2019, Shard Credit Partners completed the MBO of Alexander Technologies Europe Limited in Peterlee, County Durham named by Insider Media to the short list for North East Private Equity/Venture Capital Deal of the Year 2020.  In March 2020, Shard Credit Partners backed the MBO of Jackson Lees Group in Merseyside by its senior management team.

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