Smoke turns to fire sale as PIL fights to salvage balance sheet

The financial health of SS Teo-led Pacific International Lines (PIL), the world’s tenth largest container carrier, has been the source of much conjecture of late with ships being detained and late charter and bunker payments all making headlines.

The privately held Singapore liner is quitting the transpacific tradelane this month as it circles the wagons to focus on the North-South trades. PIL, founded in 1967, also exited the Asia-Europe trades in April last year.

PIL has now been offloading some of its ships and other assets to help its balance sheet.

PIL has reportedly sold its 60% stake in Pacific Direct Line (PDL), which operates five ships ranging in size from 520 to 940 teu in the South Pacific. Alphaliner reports PIL sold its holding in the company to the parent company of Neptune Pacific Line, another carrier focusing on the South Pacific trades.

Multiple broking reports also show PIL has sold four 11,923 teu ships to Seaspan for $367m. Earlier this week Wan Hai Lines announced it had bought two 11,923 teu ships for $186.8m from PIL as the Singapore line readies its transpacific exit. The ships are the largest ever bought by Wan Hai, which has had a transpacific partnership with PIL and Cosco over the past few years. All six 11,923 teu ships sold by PIL in recent days were built at Yangzijiang in China between 2017 and 2018.

In an earlier bid to shore up its shipping operations, PIL concluded the sale of most of its Singamas dry container manufacturing factories in China to Cosco last August for $565m.

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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