Seized tanker sold for US$29m

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am


Samho Dream, a supertanker under arrest in Hong Kong since October for non-payment of a bank loan, has been sold at auction for US$29 million, a fraction of the US$137.5 million the distressed South Korean owner paid for the ship in 2008.

The ship was bought on Wednesday by London's Embiricos Shipbrokers on behalf of the owner of a Greek ship management company. The shipbroker confirmed it acted as agent for the new owner, which it declined to name. The buyer is thought to be linked to the Embiricos shipping dynasty, one of Greece's largest shipowners.

Hong Kong shipbrokers estimated the ship was worth US$35 million to US$40 million before the vessel was sold in an auction ordered by the court last month.

One shipping executive thought up to US$5 million would be needed to clean and overhaul the ship, but even given this cost, the vessel is still seen as good value.

'The new owner has got itself something of a bargain - it's a good ship.'

Seven bids were received when tenders closed on Wednesday, but all were under the US$30 million reserve price fixed after two valuations of the tanker by a shipbroker and surveyor.

After consultations between Admiralty judge Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes and chief bailiff Sunny Kwan Sek-nam, it was decided to sell the ship rather than seek new valuations and tenders.

The ship hit the headlines in November 2010 when Samho paid a record US$9.5 million to get the hijacked tanker and 24 crew members freed from Somali pirates. The tanker was transporting crude oil from Iraq to the United States when it was hijacked in April 2010.

Samho acquired the 319,360 deadweight tonne very large crude carrier at the height of the shipping boom in early 2008 from Greek shipowner Dynacom using a US$120 million loan from a syndicate led by South Korea's Shinhan Bank.

It was partly the high ransom payment coupled with the loss of revenue during the ship's seven-month seizure by pirates and financial problems at Samho's shipbuilding business that led to problems repaying the loan.

Lawyers from the Hong Kong office of Holman Fenwick Willan, acting on behalf of Shinhan Bank, had the tanker arrested on arrival in Hong Kong on October 18 last year.

Samho filed for bankruptcy protection in April last year after it posted a net loss of 65.2 billion won (HK$445.4 billion) on revenue of 196.7 billion won for 2010.

Built in 2002, the Samho Dream was the last of five ships owned by Samho Shipping arrested in Hong Kong for non-payment of bank loans. The four other ships were also sold at court-ordered auctions.

They include two smaller 13,153 dwt chemical and petroleum products tankers, the former Samho Cordelia and Samho Gloria, that were bought by specialist tanker company Navig8 and now managed by Hong Kong's Univan Ship Management.