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Nordic American Tankers CEO reaffirms faith in Korean shipbuilding industry


Nordic American Tankers CEO
Herbjorn Hansson, chairman of Nordic American Tankers (second from the right in the picture) is posing for photos at the ship christening ceremony held for two crude oil tankers that the shipper ordered with Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering dockyard in Tongyeong, southern Korea on Wednesday. [By Choi Seung-gyun]

Once-mighty Korean shipyards that fell from grace amid drought of orders from prolonged global slowdown and weak oil prices to the point of pleading for debt relief from creditors received uplifting moral support from one of their loyalist customers – the Nordic American Tankers (NAT). 

The Bermuda-based crude shipping fleet company founder and CEO-Chairman Herbjorn Hansson flew into Tongyeong, southern coastal port city of Korea, accompanied by an entourage of 50 from Norway to attend the christening ceremony of the two Suezmax oil tankers his company ordered from Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in 2014 for 150 billion won ($134 million). 

“When there is down, there will be also up,” Hansson spoke to the Maeil Business Newspaper in a jovial voice after the naming ceremony on Tuesday. 

He kept up the good will and faith in the Korean mid-tier shipbuilder that had been on the brink of heading for court receivership grappling with the double whammy of overcapacity and poor demand. 

Korean shipyards fell into deeper trouble as their colossal deliveries were interrupted or cancelled and payment delayed as their clients came under financial squeeze due to poor global oil prices and economy. 

But Hansson stuck to his deal and maintained firm belief in Korean builders. 

“Whenever they (Korean builders) face difficulties, they never, never, never, give up, and they made fantastic progress with hard work. I admire their resistance spirit against difficulties,” he said. He plans placing another order with Korean shipyard later this or next year. 

He is a fan of greater fighters because he himself has never given up easily. 

He is known to be a unique figure in the shipping business with unconventional business model of sticking to zero-debt balance sheet and entirely running on Suezmax – crude oil tankers that transit the Suez Canal. Upon receiving the two newly-born, NAT will have a fleet of 30 of such tankers of which 24 delivered from Korean dockyards. 

In 2004, his bold and unyielding nature won investments from American lenders backed by just three tankers made by Samsung Heavy Industries. In the first half of 2016, the company reported a stellar operating profit yield of 37 percent even when the market leader and Danish shipping conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk Group recorded a loss. 

In further show of confidence and humility towards Koreans, Hansson donated $10,000 each to Tongyeong, and Goseong, homes to many local shipyards where the economies had been hard hit by the troubles at dockyards and layoffs. 

Hansson had been the first foreign participant of the Youth Hope Fund that Korean government created to support the youth searching for brighter future when he attended the Maekyung Media Group’s World Knowledge Forum last year.

The Original Posted By Park Yong-beom and Choi Seung-gyun/Maeil Business News