German lender expects to recoup most of loans for Iran ships

FRANKFURT Wed Feb 6, 2013 10:05am EST

FRANKFURT Feb 6 (Reuters) - Germany's DVB Bank expects to recover two thirds of its loans to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Iran's biggest cargo carrier and subject to Western and U.N. sanctions.

"Of four (Iranian) ships that DVB financed, three are now back in Iran. DVB has arrested one ship called Uppercourt in China," Chief Executive Wolfgang Driese told Reuters.

An arrest occurs when a ship is detained by a court order to secure a maritime claim. The arrest may ultimately result in a judicial sale of the ship to pay the claim.

"We expect to get back two thirds of our remaining exposure to IRISL through the sale of this ship," Driese said.

DVB's exposure to IRISL currently totals less than 20 million euros.

The Uppercourt, built in 2005, is a panamax dry bulk vessel, which is typically used to transport commodities cargoes such as grain and coal. A five-year old panamax vessel is currently valued around $18.4 million, Baltic Exchange data showed.

Recently, a 2001 Japanese-built panamax vessel was sold for around $12.5 million, with the Uppercourt estimated to be valued around the $15.5 million level, a ship industry source said.

"The fact that the vessel is associated with Iran, for right or wrong, will keep major players away from expressing interest; not that the freight market and its prospects, or the shipping finance availability kindle much interest these days, anyway," said Basil Karatzas, chief executive of consultancy and brokerage Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.

In January, Amina, another of the four ships, fled Sri Lankan waters after weeks of detention by its navy, acting on a court order obtained by DVB Bank. Sri Lanka's navy had fired warning shots earlier to prevent the vessel from leaving.

"The Indian crew of the Amina has been treated badly. We are searching for the crew members now and are planning to grant them a small indemnity," Driese said.

Foreign companies have cut ties with Iran's shipping sector for fear of losing lucrative U.S. business. A ban on EU ship insurance provision and the exit of certifiers from Iran - vital for access to ports - have added to woes for Iranian ship firms.

IRISL has tried to dodge sanctions by changing its flags and setting up front companies, the U.S. Treasury and the EU have said. Last year IRISL Managing Director Mohammad Hussein Dajmar said that if pressure from Western sanctions continued, the group would face increasingly grave financial problems.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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