July 3 - Heavy lift and multipurpose shipping line OXL has satisfied Belgian administrators and its creditors that it is credible ongoing concern, having restructured the operational and strategic sides of its business.
HLPFI reported on February 4, 2014 that the Zeebrugge-based line was confident that it would meet the demands of the Belgian courts and creditors, having applied for creditor protection in January 2014.
Thomas Daenens, chartering director at OXL explained that in Belgium, if a company makes losses over a significant trading period it must present its case to continue operating to the country's government and its creditors: "You have to take a measures, which we have done, and in this particular case it was to first of all take some cost saving measures.
"Also you have to have a collective agreement for the creditors so that they give you some time to pay back the debt."
Daenens stated that "it took some time for us to get the people on board", and that the plan required fine-tuning but it has been almost unanimously accepted with the issued votes. "As such, it shows that there is a reason for developing strong relationships and people do trust in the ability of the company."
Daenens revealed that no staff cuts were required as part of OXL's restructuring, however, it has been forced to retire some of the older vessels in its fleet. He highlighted that some of these vessels, which had suffered from reliability issues, played a part in OXL's negative performance.
"We had several ships that were off-hire for months and that has a negative reflection on the company because the ship misses laycans, cargoes get cancelled and this generates lower sales.
"It's a bit of downward spiral so we got rid of all the less reliable vessels and now we are strengthening up on the fleet.
"That's going to be a slow process over the coming months and years. We are not in a rush to stock up on more than 10 -15 ships again," he said, and OXL will focus on optimising the capacity that it currently has available.
"At the same time we have our joint venture with the Hanssy and we will continue to work closely together to fill up its vessels… and at the end of the day the clients enjoy the same service as before with more tonnage and frequency in the geographical areas" Daenens continued.
Daenens is pleased that OXL has been able to transition into a new era and is optimistic for the company's future, eyeing the United States as a key market to drive growth. "The USA has already come through its crisis as they were the first guys to dive into it", Daenens observed.
The country's booming shale gas industry has resulted in a large-scale petrochemical plant construction, which in turn is presenting project and breakbulk cargo transport opportunities: "The spin off to other parts of the world will follow and there will be more movements."