A Singapore court has appointed two locally-based executives of international accountants Ernst & Young as interim judicial managers of Ocean Tankers, whose fleet of some 100 vessels includes nine bunker barges.
The move follows the revelations about the financial state of Singapore based oil trader Hin Leong Trading which also went into judicial management in April when it became clear the company had billions of dollars of debt.
Hin Leong and Ocean Tankers are closely connected and both owned by the Lim family, headed by the founder of the trading business Lim Oon Kuin (OK Lim).
In an affidavit to the court, OK Lim said he had directed the firm not to disclose US$800 million in losses over several years. Singapore police said in April they had launched an investigation. He also admitted secretly selling oil the company had pledged as collateral for its loans. The company’s liabilities outstrip its assets by more than US$3 billion. A police investigation is underway. In response to press reporting of the court proceedings, three government agencies, Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), issued a joint statement saying that they were “closely monitoring developments related to Hin Leong Trading Pte Ltd and the broader oil trading and bunkering sectors”.
ESG said it assessed that Singapore’s oil trading sector remained resilient notwithstanding the challenges posed by the drop in global demand for energy. It said: “The sector is sufficiently diversified with more than 130 significant global, regional and local companies that trade energy products. Singapore is also an important regional storage, blending and distribution hub for refined oil products.”
While Hin Leong was related to UT Singapore Services which operates
an oil terminal, Universal Terminals, by common shareholdings, ESG made the point that Universal Terminals was operated independently of Hin Leong. Besides Universal Terminals, there are other independent oil terminal operators in Singapore including Vopak, Oiltanking and Tankstore.
MPA said it had assessed that there would be no serious impact on Singapore’s bunkering industry. It said that there might be some short-term minor disruptions due
to the lapse of contractual obligations by Hin Leong subsidiaries Ocean Bunkering Services, which owns 14 MPA-licensed bunker barges, and Hin Leong Marine International.
MPA asserted that the Singapore bunkering sector “is well diversified with 43 other licensed bunker suppliers, including Minerva Bunker and TFG Marine which recently received their licences”.
The statement continued: “ESG and MPA will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that Singapore’s supply chain for oil products and bunkering operations continue to function without disruption”.
MAS said it was in close contact with the banks on developments related to Hin Leong. MAS it added that it agreed with the assessment by ESG and MPA and had reminded the banks not to de-risk indiscriminately from the bunkering and oil trading sectors. But it cautioned: “Banks should, however, continue to apply judicious credit assessment on individual borrowers to manage their risks.”
News that MPA has awarded bunker supplier licences to Minerva Bunkering and TFG Marine came at the same time as news of Hin Leong’s troubles emerged. According to MPA, the two new players will bring the total number of licensed bunker suppliers to 45 in the Port of Singapore. Minerva Bunkering and TFG Marine will be required to each operate at least two clean energy dual-fuelled bunker barges.
Just as we were going to press, Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings) Limited, the parent company of Singapore-based bunker trader and supplier Brightoil Petroleum (S’pore) Pte Ltd, announced a settlement agreement of around US$30 million with its creditor, Vietnam-based trader Petrolimex, which initiated a bankruptcy order last year. Brightoil has entered into loan restructuring agreements with Bank of China and China Huarong Overseas Investment Holding Co. The latter has provided Brightoil with US$392 in refinancing and loan financing in a deal that will see the company’s founder Sit Kwong Lam coming out of bankruptcy. Brightoil was a major physical supplier in Singapore but its barges have been sold and it no longer holds an MPA bunkering licence.
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