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Maritime CEO Forum: Asset plays are coming to an end

The days of asset play in dry bulk shipping are increasingly over, according to a senior panel of shipowners speaking at this week’s Maritime CEO Forum held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong.

The session, moderated by Mandarin Shipping’s Tim Huxley, covered a huge range of topics from IMO 2020, shipyard prices, the state of the IMO to slow steaming. However, it was on asset play where debate t centred most.

“You can’t just be a shipowner today. Asset play is much harder today. You need to be an owner that operates your own assets,” said Olivia Lennox-King, managing director of local dry bulk concern, Asia Maritime Pacific.

Christopher Cheng, managing director of LD Bulk, part of the Louis Dreyfus empire, chipped in on the topic, saying: “As long as there is volatility there still exists possibilities for asset plays, but it has definitely got harder.”

Cheng also had a memorable quip, telling the invited shipping bosses in the room, “There are only two types of shipowner – cautiously optimistic or optimistic.”

“The shipowner model is still valid provide you have the pockets to take a very long term approach,” suggested Vikrant Bhatia, CEO of KC Maritime, who went on to argue that private owners are better placed than public ones.

Thomas Söderberg, founder of Tribini Capital, said it would be very hard to replicate the asset plays of earlier decades.

“Finance is so hard to come by unless you have a very strong balance sheet and that has become an increasing problem for someone who would like to speculate,” Söderberg said, adding: “We think the world going forward will be more dull because there will be less speculation, less finance and less shipyards.”

A full report from the session will feature in Maritime CEO magazine. The next forum takes place at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore on March 17 next year.

The Maritime CEO Forum in Hong Kong was sponsored by American Express, Anglo-Eastern, Cobham, Dualog, Liberian Registry, Lloyd’s Register and Marlink.


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