Rickmers files for insolvency in largest shipping casualty since Hanjin

In the biggest shipping casualty since Hanjin, German shipping group Rickmers officially filed for insolvency on Thursday, in the wake of HSH Nordbank failing to approve its restructuring plan.

Chaired by Bertram Rickmers, the group currently own 33 live container vessels, with four more on order, as well as four dry bulkers and two vehicle carriers. The group is also a large vessel charterer, with a total combined chartered and owned fleet comprising of 114 vessels.

Rickmers had said it was “highly surprising” that HSH Nordbank had decided to not support its restructuring bid.

Via LinkedIn, Tobias Koenig, a columnist for Splash and the head of Lexington Maritime, said the bank’s decision was likely a political move, as the bank tries to avoid the blame for inevitable write-offs.

“There is a heated discussion in Hamburg, as the politicians are now under pressure. As usual, they are not shy to cause a much bigger damage, if it is easier to explain to the public. For HSH itself, this move will cause much bigger losses as any restructuring plan. But now they can blame it on the insolvency,” Koenig wrote.

For all the talk of disruption, digitization and sustainability at Nor-Shipping this week, the Rickmers news has been one of the main talking points among owners attending the flagship matitime event in Oslo, according to another Splash columnist, Clay Maitland.

“If anyone thinks that the clouds of despondence, and even despair, are lifting, I’m not in that number. The various bits and pieces of the industry that spoke up at the sessions in Oslo were reasonably cheerful. But the numbers don’t lie; the dry bulk and container sectors just aren’t coming back to where they were ten years ago,” Maitland, the managing partner at International Registries, Inc, told Splash.

“You’ll see some of the big players of recent times will not be seen at Posidonia next year, just as quite a few were absent from Oslo this week,” Maitland predicted.

As with Hanjin, owners who have easy access to finance and who can move quickly will be able to snap up some great deals from the Rickmers carcass, said Toby Yeabsley at pricing portal VesselsValue. He predicted there may be some bulk buy deals, as was the case when Capital Maritime, Seaspan and KMTC all bought Hanjin vessels en bloc after the Koren liner’s collapse.

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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