German towage firms may be sold to Boluda

by Hans | December 7th, 2016

The shake-up among towage service providers in German ports is reaching a climax with the planned sale of two of Germany’s oldest tug operators.

Shipowner and maritime services group Linnhoff Schiffahrt confirmed to IHS Fairplay that its two tug companies Unterweser Reederei (URAG) and Lütgens & Reimers (L&S) are likely to be sold to Spain’s Boluda Corporación Maritima for an undisclosed sum.

Employees of URAG – the bigger of the two subsidiaries – will be updated about the planned change of ownership at a meeting this week.

Negotiations with Boluda are continuing, with agreement and signing of a deal expected within weeks, Linnhoff’s managing director Katharina Strümpell told IHS Fairplay.

Together, URAG and L&S control about 20 tugs – most of them deployed in Bremerhaven (URAG) and Hamburg (L&S) where towage services for major customers including Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Co have been lost to foreign tug operators.

Apparently, the operations of the two firms have been loss-making since the reshuffle of customers and contracts, and Linnhoff sees no prospect of a turnaround. “We have no idea when things will turn up again in the sector. That’s why we have made the decision [to sell], also for the good of our employees,” Strümpell said. 

At the current rate of losses, the two German operators would probably have faced insolvency.
Details of the takeover and transition of assets including the future of jobs and the deployment of URAG’s and L&S’ tugs remain to be agreed.

With a fleet of about 200 tugs and its pan-European network, Boluda is considered to be the best strategic option for URAG and L&S.

The demise of the businesses is a result of increased competition among port service providers because of the advance of Dutch and Danish towage services providers Kotug Smit and Svitzer in the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven. A major setback for Linnhoff’s URAG recently has been the loss of its clients Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Co in Bremerhaven to Svitzer.

Source: IHS Fairplay

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