Rickmers Maritime Trust moved closer to liquidation last week, as its bondholders rejected a financial restructuring that might have saved the company.
It’s deja vu for the ocean shipping industry. Last August, Hanjin Shipping filed for receivership—and has since begun the liquidation process—after its creditors failed to approve a restrucutring proposal.
The Rickmer proposal would have swapped 60 percent of the $69 million in debt due in May 2017 for equity and pushed back the due date of the the remaining $28 million to 2023.
Rickmers announced last September that it would not be able to pay the May 2017 debt when it became due and that liquidation was on the table. The ship owner also missed a $4-million interest payment last month.
Rickmers said in a statement that it would “prudently consider and assess alternative proposals for the restructuring of the notes…” It also noted that the company “is in discussions with certain of its senior lenders in relation to a potential divestment of assets for working capital purposes.”
Earlier this month, Rickmers announced that it would scrap the India Rickmers—a containership it paid $60 million—to pay down debt to Commerzbank AG, which has a security interest in the vessel.
Rickmers problem is that it owns a fleet of panamax vessels made obsolete by the expanded Panama Canal. Once able to handle containerships in the 4000-TEU range, the expanded locks can now accommodate vessels of up to 14,000 TEU.
The result has been that Rickmers’ panamax vessels are not longer in demand and have plumetted in value. The India Rickmers for example, has a current estimated market value of $5.9 million, having fallen by 62 percent this year, thanks to the widening of the Panama Canal.
While it looks like Rickmers will be falling by the wayside, the implications are not as dire for supply chains as they were for Hanjin. Hanjin’s sudden application for receivership left tens of millions of dollars worth of cargo stranded on the high seas until the mess was sorted out, a process which took many weeks.
Rickmers, as a vessel owner, is experiencing troubles as a result of the lack of demand for their use. So its not likely that many supply chains will be interupted when and if Rickmers proceeds with liquidation.
On the other hand, while a number of privately-owned shipowning concerns have filed for bankruptcy in the last three years, Rickmers is the first publicly listed owner to admit that it is insolvent and that its assets are currently only worth their scrap values. It’s a sad commentary on the state of overcapacity in the ocean shipping industry.
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