Unicorn orders fourth tanker

Jun 18, 2003
Author: P&S

Unicorn Tankers now has four new 37,000-DWT product tankers on order with the South Korean Shin A shipyard, for delivery between the first quarter of 2004 and early in 2005. Unicorn will manage and run all four of the ships.

The four ships are costing USD24 million each, which turns out to be excellent value considering that the going price today is more in the order of USD26.5m for similar sized products tankers.

But in order to make way for the new tonnage Unicorn has sold several of its older vessels in the fleet, including the 44 549-dwt products tanker Hambisa, currently employed on charter to Unicornís black economic empowerment joint venture company Southern Tankers. Hambisa is sub-let to Shell and BP on the South African coast and will remain on charter to Southern Tankers until the new vessel arrives.

Another two tankers, the smaller 13,946-dwt Stolt Ntaba and Ntombi have also been disposed of to Norwegian interests.

According to Alan Olivier, chief executive of Unicorn Shipping, the choice of 37 000-dwt products tankers takes into account the number of ports both locally and worldwide that have draught restrictions making it difficult for larger 45 000-dwt vessels to be fully employed. He says that as a result the newbuilds are likely to be much better utilised, and that in any case products tankers seldom find 45 000 ton parcels and it is therefore a waste to continue with larger ships such as Hambisa.

The acquiring of the newbuilds also took advantage of a low cycle during which prices were low, which led to considerable savings.

Olivier believes the deal is a good one for Unicorn. The news ships are all state-of-the-art and fully compliant with requirements and will in addition provide Unicorn with a very modern fleet, which the company should be able to take full advantage of.

One of the requirements referred to by Olivier, which works in favour of the newbuilds, is the increasing demand for double skin tankers, particularly in light of several recent tanker disasters off the coast of Europe. New legislation being introduced is likely to make it increasingly difficult for single skin and older vessels to find work.

On the other hand a glance at some of the vessels plying their trade along the South African coast brings increased concerns over safety. Adding to these concerns is new legislation being introduced in Europe and the United States which increases the likelihood of older displaced vessels being sent to less policed waters (such as the Southern African coast).

No decision has been taken with the naming of the new vessels, but the first ship, which is going on charter to Southern Tankers, is the subject of a competition being held among four schools that have maritime studies as part of their curricula.

Durbanís New Forest High School and eSikhaweni (near Richard Bay) Tisand Technical High School, as well as Simonís Town High School and the Fezeka High School at Gugulethu have been invited to take part in a competition to find a suitable name. The prize for the winner is a personal computer as well as a trip along the coast in the new ship.

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