Admiralty judge Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes yesterday ordered the valuation and sale of a supertanker detained in Hong Kong since the middle of October over the non-payment of bank loans.
The Samho Dream hit the headlines last year after the ship's South Korean owner, Samho Shipping, paid a ransom of more than US$9 million to Somali pirates to free the tanker and its crew of 24. The 319,360 deadweight tonne tanker was hijacked in April last year on a voyage transporting crude oil from Iraq to the United States and was held for seven months.
Financial problems stemming from the hijacking of the Samho Dream and another Samho tanker, the Samho Jewelry, together with difficulties at its shipbuilding business, led Samho Shipping to file for bankruptcy protection in April this year. This came after the company posted a net loss of 65.2 billion won (HK$448.95 million) on revenues of 196.7 billion won last year.
Samho Shipping paid US$137.5 million to buy the Marshall Islands-registered Samho Dream at the peak of the market in early 2008. The ship was acquired from a Greek shipowner using a US$120 million loan, repayable over 13 years, from a syndicate led by Shinhan Bank of South Korea and including Woori Bank and National Agricultural Co-operative Federation.
Ship brokers said the tanker, which was built in 2002, was now worth between US$35 million and US$40 million.
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.
Ordering the sale of the tanker, Reyes said the ship, which is anchored south of Hong Kong, will be appraised by a surveyor and a ship broker. The average of the two valuations will be used as the minimum sale price when the chief bailiff invites offers for the ship. Advertisements seeking tenders for the ship are expected to be published soon in newspapers printed in Hong Kong and London.
Proceeds from the sale will be held in an escrow account to allow creditors to lodge claims before a final pay-out is made next year.
The Samho Dream was the last of five ships owned by Samho Shipping that have been arrested in Hong Kong since June. The four other ships, comprising three smaller chemical and petroleum products tankers and a dry cargo ship, have been sold. These included the 3,389-dwt tanker Samho Garnet which was bought free of further outstanding creditors claims by Samho Shipping which still continued to operate.
Speaking when the first Samho ships were detained, Reverend Stephen Miller, senior chaplain at the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong, said Samho Shipping had its cash flow constrained by the piracy incidents and shipyard problems.
The pastor, who visited some of the crew on board the Samho ships, said: 'We are seeing the knock-on effects of piracy.'
The number of ships attacked by Somalian pirates in the first 11 months of the year
- 48 ships were attacked last year