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Rimorchiatori Riuniti: Fleet transition

Genoa: After two decades of existence, the business adventure of the London-based (but Italian owned) Euroceanica UK Ltd is coming to an end. Market sources report the sale of the chemical tanker Crystal Atlantic, the last vessel remaining in the fleet of the company controlled over the years by various stakeholders including Rimorchiatori Riuniti, Banchero Costa, T.Mariotti, ERG, Messina Group, Yarpa Investment Fund and PKB Privatbank.

“We are trying to finalize the sale of the last ship in the fleet and the transaction should be completed by the end of this year” confirms Gregorio Gavarone, ceo of Rimorchiatori Riuniti group, main shareholder of Euroceanica. While there is no comment on the identity of the Crystal Atlantic buyer market rumours cite the Chinese company Sinochem.

“In 1994, Euroceanica was set up with the intention of participating in the privatisation of Italian state controlled shipowning companies,” further explains Gavarone, adding that, “The intended participation in privatisation did not materialise but it was decided nevertheless to continue with the new venture. Subsequently, many additional investments have been made under the Euroceanica name”.

Actually Euroceanica and its shareholders have had a long history of investment and operations in the tramp shipping markets. The first investments were made in the dry bulk market and subsequent dry cargo investments have included both standard bulk carriers and OBOs. The first newbuildings were ordered in the early ‘70s, when a panamax bulk carrier was contracted in Poland, followed shortly by other bulk carriers from Japanese yards. In the first phase of the group’s development the investments were exclusively dry cargo, however in the early 1980s the first investments in tankers were made. By the 1990s the group had built up expertise in both wet and dry markets and had operated ships both on time charters and the spot market. During the 1990s a series of investments were made in OBO vessels and tankers followed by a series of suezmax and product tankers newbuildings ordered from Korean yards. In 2005, Euroceanica entered the chemical tanker market securing first the fleet of Finaval in Italy and in 2006 Crystal Pool, which included both its fleet and operating company.

“In 2004, we successfully sold three Suezmax tankers to a Greek shipowner and with the money we decided to penetrate the chemical shipping market buying Crystal Pool considering that, although low profit margins, it might be a less volatile and profitable investment for the future. Unfortunately from 2008 onwards also the shipping of chemical products has been severely impacted by the crisis and in the last four years a deep restructuring of the company led to the gradual sale of all the ships,” says the Rimorchiatori Riuniti’s Ceo.

Even with the Genoa-based group is still owning two container ships (RR Europa and RR America) and a panamax bulk carrier (Hampton Bridge) through Bulk Malta Ltd, the new investment strategy is focused on the port tugs and offshore market. “The dry and liquid bulk market seem to be segments unstable and unsuitable to our development strategies, due to the presence of large financial investors ordering dozens of newbuildings with the result that the freight market rates remains depressed. They just make the fortune of some technical and commercial managers. That’s not the traditional shipowning and shipping approach as we intend it,” emphasizes Gavarone.

2014 is an important year for the group, he explains, as it invests some EUR100m in the following operations: takeover of 50% stake in Ravenna based Gesmar Group, new orders for two harbour tugs in Vietnam and Turkey, and taking delivery of a new AHTS vessel built by Rosetti Marino shipyard.  [20/11/14]

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