Shipping company Nautilus files for U.S. bankruptcy

June 24 Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:22am EDT

June 24 (Reuters) - Nautilus Holdings Ltd, a Bermuda-chartered company that leases container ships, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York, becoming the latest victim of a depressed shipping industry.

The company has about $770 million in debt, according to papers filed late Monday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

International shipping rates have fallen in recent years as large new vessels entered service at the same time that a sluggish global economy was curbing trade.

Nautilus said it had some profitable charter contracts and believed it was well-positioned to restructure its obligations, but it filed for bankruptcy protection to bring creditors into a single forum for negotiations.

The company, with offices in New York and Hong Kong, has a fleet of 16 container ships with capacities of up to 7,000 twenty-foot containers. It leases ships to companies including AP Moeller-Maersk A/S, Evergreen Marine Corp Taiwan Ltd and Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.

Nautilus joins a list of shipping companies that have filed for bankruptcy in the United States in recent years, including Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd, Overseas Shipholding Group Inc and Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd.

There are signs the downturn in shipping may have run its course.

Nautilus Chief Restructuring Officer James Mesterharm said in court papers that industry analysts were forecasting a rebound in shipping rates in the coming years. Recent bankruptcies in the sector have differed from a typical corporate Chapter 11 in that shareholders have received some recovery rather than losing their entire investment.

Reminiscent Ventures is a major investor in Nautilus and recently acquired a large equity stake from GE Capital. Nautilus's chief executive officer is Andreas Papathomas, according to court documents.

Jay Goffman of law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom represents Nautilus.

The case is In Re: Nautilus Holdings Ltd, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-22885. (Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)