compaa_sud_americana_de_vapores_logoThe future of Chilean carrier CSAV's newbuilding portfolio is in the hands of the banks.

The buzz is mounting that four 12,550-teu post-panamaxes on order for the line may be cancelled. A decision appears imminent as bankers involved in CSAV's restructuring met in Hamburg.

The move comes a month after the Santiago-listed company took on German bank HSH Corporate Finance to help restructure its assets and shore up cash.

Central to the talks are the post-panamax quartet, booked in 2007 at Samsung Heavy Industries.

They are part of a series ordered together with German owner Peter Dohle, which has another eight vessels under construction for delivery in 2010 and 2011 for charter to CSAV.

The talk over the newbuildings nofollows the Claro group's efforts to sell off non-core assets in CSAV. Those plans were dealt a blow this week as the Urenda group, which controls fellow Chilean line CCNI, rejected an offer for CSAV's slice of Santiago-listed port-logistics outfit Agencias Universal (Agunsa). "They approached us and offered a price for the shares," the El Mercurio newspaper quotes Urenda group general manager Franco Montalbetti as saying. "We told them we're not interested."

CSAV has suffered numerous credit-rating downgrades in recent months as losses ate into its liquidity but it is not commenting on the matter ahead of a shareholders meeting on 21 April. Other carriers with post-panamax orders at Samsung have also been trying to negotiate delays and cancellations. They include Zim of Israel, which has an order for nine 12,500-teu vessels at the yard for delivery in 2012 and 2013.

Last week, China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) of Taiwan confirmed that the Israeli owner had cancelled an order for six 1,700-teu vessels ordered in 2007 for delivery in late 2010 and 2011.

A growing number of containership owners appear ready to cut their losses and cancel orders where small down payments have already been made. Most of the orders that have been ditched due to lack of funds are in the sub-4,000-teu sector, says analyst Alphaliner. It adds that an unexpectedly low figure of 76 cellular ships have been delivered so far this year, as some deliveries have slipped into the second quarter.

Several series of ships have been deferred and a few large vessels - although apparently completed - will be handed over several weeks later than planned, it adds. Alphaliner estimates that the cellular-ship orderbook has fallen to its lowest level in the past 18 months, amounting to 1,045 ships of 5.8 million teu.

That figure represents 46% of the existing fleet, as against 64% in November 2007. However, the delivery schedule will increase in the next three quarters, with 1.4 million teu set for delivery between April and December 2009.