Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries is said to have inked an order for two 9,000-teu containerships from a Singapore-based shipowner.
Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction have been handed over, while discussions continue about the fate of a third.
Tehran-headquartered IRISL confirmed foreign media Thursday that a pair of 6,500-teu ships had been released by the shipyard, ending a stand-off that dates back at least a year.
Resolution of the quarrel will bring relief throughout the container shipping industry, since a fire sale could have set a public price benchmark, leaving other owners with no choice but to mark down asset values.
What the two sides have agreed between themselves has not been revealed, but IRISL’s ship management director Ghasam Nabipour confirmed that two of the ships had been delivered.
He would not say how the deadlock had been resolved, but indicated that negotiations were proceeding along the same lines to obtain the final ship in the series. Then a report on the situation would be issued, he said.
Hanjin delivered the first of the IRISL newbuildings, First Ocean, but then refused to hand over three sister vessels after failing to receive the balance of money owed amid speculation that the shipping line had been caught up in US sanctions against Iran that prevented US banks from participating in any financing.
Not everyone subscribed to that theory, however, and instead suspected the market slump was squeezing IRISL’s financial resources and breached loan-to-value covenants.
As the deadlock dragged on in the summer, the three ships at the center of the dispute were put up for sale by Hanjin, and apparently attracted bids for as little as a quarter of the contracted price of around $100m apiece when the ships were ordered in 2006.
But that auction through ICAP Shipping was considered by some to be purely a legal technicality rather than a serious effort to sell the ships, with no offers accepted and talks continuing throughout with IRISL.
The Iranian line already had two 6,500-teu ships that were completed by Hyundai Heavy Industries last year, and had wanted to add the remaining four ordered from Hanjin to its Asia-Europe service.
Second Ocean left South Korea earlier in the month and is now in Kaohsiung, while Third Ocean still appears to be in Pusan. Fourth Ocean is the ship that remains detained by Hanjin while its future is resolved.
But while Hanjin appears to be moving towards a conclusion of the row with IRISL, there is still a question mark over three similar-sized ships ordered by CMA CGM that is still in talks with bankers over a massive debt restructuring.
The 6,500-teu CMA CGM Kessel, Lamartine and Maupassant are all scheduled for delivery this month, but final payment is outstanding. With the French line calling on shipyards to delay deliveries or accept cancellations, there is speculation in the market that these could also be put up for sale.
However, no action is likely until the outcome of the negotiations with CMA CGM’s lenders is known, said one industry source.