Seaspan’s top names’ $1bn share exit sparks further concern about container shipping prospects

With a number of container shipping’s most respected names suggesting there is no chance for any supply/demand equilibrium in the sector this decade news that the main figures behind Seaspan Corporation are looking to cash in now lends credit to the cautious feeling many feel about prospects ahead.

The Nasdaq-listed Canadian ship leasor revealed yesterday plans to sell as much as $1bn in shares and securities. Among those selling are Graham Porter – offloading 2m shares, Dennis Washington – set to sell 1.13m shares, and Gerry Wang, who aims to sell up to 500,000 shares.

Maersk CEO Soren Skou recently said he saw no return to supply/demand equilibrium until the early 2020s, while the veteran chairman of OOCL has also said there’s little chance of any balance being met this decade.

Seaspan’s share price has been on a steady decline in the past year, down from a high of $19.59 registered on March 17 last year to close at just $7.74 yesterday, not helped by the collapse of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping.

Seaspan, one of the world’s top containership leasors, registered a net profit for the final quarter of 2016 of $1.44m, down from $76.21m in the same quarter of 2015.

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.


  1. Interesting, but entirely expected turn of events.

    Everyone could see this coming a mile away throughout the end of 2015 and entirely all last year in 2016, as one carrier after another routinely saw blood red all over their financial books.

    In May of last year, Splash reported that Seaspan had engaged with the public/media and bragged about raising hundreds of millions of dollars in investment cash, in addition to their raising $12 billion since 2005 from their initial IPO. All this while patting Mr. Wang on the back as he signed on with Seaspan for another 5 year employment contract. Wang the ‘super shipping executive’ could do no wrong, so it seems. Or was this a quiet, desperate effort by the others at Seaspan’s corporate office to stem the obvious tsunami of bad news that everyone else saw that was headed their way?

    In a June 2016 interview with Splash, Mr Wang was adamant, even “demanding” that the South Korean gov’t effectively bail-out Hanjin…which in effect, would save Seaspan’s charter arrangement of several ships. Clearly then and now, Mr Wang was placing all his bets on a gov’t bailout of Hanjin to save the day.

    What a fool.

    In the same month, Wang later underscored Seaspan’s position of “never reducing charter rate agreements” with Hanjin, after being approached by Hanjin (again) to lower daily charter rates. Wang even had the audacity to make the statement that; “…we are enhancing our balance sheets and fire power as we believe crisis goes with opportunities…”

    Mr. Wang was playing cat and mouse games with politicians in Seoul. Raising the ante in a high stakes bet he was destined to lose. South Korean politicians were in no mood to let Wang win this hand. Who couldn’t see this playing out the way it did??

    In July of last year, Mr. Wang refused to entertain the notion of reduced day rates for their Hanjin chartered vessels, preferring to earn ‘no revenue at all’ for his ships over a ‘reduced amount of revenue’ for them. Some would argue, this decision exacerbated the demise of Hanjin.

    In a Sept. 2016 edition of Splash, Mr. Wang discounted (the obvious) impending doom of his business and assured everyone publicly his vessels would find work, after being returned from Hanjin’s collapse. A brilliantly articulated spin on a wholly expected outcome, in spite of the stunning reality that Mr. Wang’s statement was laughable at best. WHO WAS GOING TO CHARTER WANG’S 10,000 TEU SHIPS AT A TIME WHERE SHIPS WERE BEING LAID UP (or scrapped) AS FAST AS NEW BUILDS WERE BEING LAUNCHED into an already over-capacitized market?????

    Seaspan stock collapses, the financial horizon for Seaspan is stormy at best, and the top execs opt for a bailout. Investors told to ‘go pound sand’ and the whole story is being repeated elsewhere in our industry. Everyone is on your own, basically its time to “abandon ship”.

    What make these people the stellar industrial shipping executives that they are publicly known to be? They’ve made not one or two, but a long list of bad decisions one after another for several years. In the gathering storm of the global economy and changing supply & logistics business, they continued to navigate a dubious route using old school projections in a new world economy. What fools they all were (and remain today).

    While I am sympathetic towards the hundreds (thousands?) of people facing unemployment that are engaged with these businesses that have been so poorly mis-managed, I cannot help but wonder if even they all saw this coming. Just as the rest of us did.

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