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A Rude Wake-up Call

Market hearsays turned into wide-spread panic as news of Korea Line’s bankruptcy filing hit the industry on Tuesday. The South Korea’s second largest bulk carrying line filed for a court receivership after its failure to renegotiate a number of loss-making charter arrangements concluded prior to the financial crisis. Alarm bells were also ringing as far away in the United States where several public listed companies have their ships chartered to the beleaguered company.

Among them, probably the most exposed was New York listed Eagle Bulk Shipping. The company has 13 out of its 48 ships on time charter to Korea Line, lasting between six to ten years. In a statement to the stock exchange, the company described its exposure to Korea Line as modest because the vast majority of the charters were fixed at close to current market rates. “To date, none of our charters with Korea Line have been restructured,” it added. In his latest report, DnB NOR’s analyst Glenn Lodden expects many of these time-charter contracts will be renegotiated and the most expensive might be breached. However, he believes that it is unlikely that Korea Line will be liquidated because the company remains “an important part of South Korean infrastructure (iron ore, coal, LNG imports).”

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