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German liner shipping has up to $30bn of toxic debt

German liner shipping has as much as $30bn of toxic debt, delegates attending Marine Money’s event in Hamburg were told yesterday.

Paul Dowell, a director of research at Howe Robinson, warned German liner shipping had $20bn to $30bn of toxic debt, much of which, he said to startled, silenced delegates, was sitting in front of him.

Dowell’s speech, described by Splash Opinion writer Neville Smith as “admirably blunt”, also took aim at global containerlines’ newbuild ordering choices. Dowell lashed carriers for focusing on ordering too many ultra large container vessels. The box market is not skating to where the puck is going to be, Dowell said, pointing out that 80% of the current orderbook is focused on the depressed Asia – Europe tradelane.

Elsewhere in a packed one-day schedule at Hamburg’s Grand Elysee Hotel John Freydag, managing director of Bernhard Schulte, told delegates that liners faced a tricky time assimilating all the brands that have jumped into bed with each other over the past 12 months.

Liner consolidation is a buzzword like digitalisation, Freydag said, stressing that achieving smooth mergers in container shipping was very difficult.

Via many merger announcements and the Hanjin casualty over the past 12 months, the number of global liners is set to shrink from 18 at the start of 2016 to just 10 by next year.

The next Marine Money event is scheduled for March 7 in Dubai.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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