Thu, Jun 27, 2013 - Page 13 News List

TMT welcomes US court ruling to free up crucial funds

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Maritime Transportation Co Ltd (TMT, 台灣海陸運輸) yesterday welcomed a US court ruling that Taiwanese creditors should release funds to the indebted bulk shipper to pay for crew salaries and bunker fuel.

The company said in a statement that a US judge ruled on Monday that banks in Taiwan must allow cash to be used to pay for the costs of salaries and fueling, including a TMT ship the banks have detained.

TMT said two major vessels, the Ladybug at Antwerp, Belgium, and the Whale off Suez, Egypt, could now be given money which had been previously denied to the company’s chairman, Nobu Su (蘇信吉), by Taiwanese banks.

The company’s other vessels have been held at ports around the world as creditors seized them as collateral, adding more pressure to a firm trying to restructure its balance sheet.

“This is a first step in the right direction,” Su said in the statement.

Su said he was unable to access accounts in Taiwan to pay crews’ salaries and for bunker fuel and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in US federal court in Houston, Texas, on Thursday last week.

“I have contracts and orders which can help make money for TMT and Taiwan, but I cannot fulfill these if banks simply seek to shut down all operations and punish the crews because of a commercial disagreement over rescheduling loans,” he said in the statement.

Creditor banks in Taiwan include First Commercial Bank (第一銀行), Mega International Commercial Bank (兆豐國際商銀), Shanghai Commercial & Savings Bank (上海商業儲蓄銀行), Bank SinoPac (永豐銀行) and Cathay United Bank (國泰世華銀行).

TMT has recruited experts to help it negotiate a restructuring of its debt, which local media reports said was about US$800 million as of the end of April.

Taiwanese banks have frozen US$54.31 million in cash collateral, Dow Jones Newswire said on Friday last week.

TMT said Su was planning to travel to Houston soon to testify in court.

He is also expected, with the government’s help, to reach “an amicable arrangement” with the Taiwanese banks, the company added.

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