While shipping companies across the globe were facing gloomy future due to the recession in the industry and have taken some corrective measures to minimise their financial crunch, it seems that the downward trend has very badly affected one of the Indian private sector shipping companies – Pratibha Shipping, industry insiders say.
Though the company is yet to clear the air on its prevailing financial condition, sources in the EXIM trade predict that the company is going through its toughest days and collapse is imminent.
“The company failed to fathom the condition (present and future) of the trade in the face of global recession on time and it has landed the shipping company to this precarious situation,” a senior analyst of maritime trade told Sagar Sandesh.
The shipping company has been in the media for quite long time, as its vessels, one-by-one, were facing a variety of disputes in Indian as well as foreign shores and anchored.
However, the chain of events took a dramatic turn earlier last week, when the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) said that Pratibha Shipping, which has a fleet of nine oil tankers, is planning to either sell or scrap five vessels due to financial crunch.
Speaking to Sagar Sandesh, Mr. Abdulgani Y. Serang, General Secretary-cum-Treasurer, National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), said: “It’s a hopeless situation in the company and we are trying our level best to satisfy the 150-odd seafarers, who are onboard the company’s oil tankers.”
“In my view, lack of proper future planning has forced the company to this worst situation and no one knows how the company could overcome the crisis,” Mr. Serang said.
According to DGS statement, for the past couple of months, the financial position of the company has been deteriorating which has resulted in the stranding of all the nine ships, statutory and mandatory certificates (for vessels) have also expired.
During discussions with DGS a few days ago (after reports of two of its oil tankers Pratibha Tapi and Pratibha Indrayani facing crew problems), the company informed the DGS that it plans to sell Chandrabhaga and Narmada, and send Tapi, Warna and Cauvery for scrapping.
At a high level meeting, which was urgently convened under the chairmanship of Mr. Gautam Chatterjee, Director General of Shipping, to discuss the situation, Mr. Sunil Pawar, Managing Director, his team from Pratibha Shipping and other stakeholders from Maritime Administration, officials from port authorities, Immigration and representatives from Indian Coast Guard attended.
Seafarers were represented by Mr. S.S. Khan, General Secretary, Mr. Sudhakar Dhuri, Asstistant Secretary, and Capt. D.H. Sawant, Advisor from the Maritime Union of India (MUI) and Mr. Abdulgani Y. Serang, Mr. Maruti D. Rethrekar, Vice-President, and Mr. Shantaram Dhamapurkar, Organising Secretary, from National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI).
During the discussion, it came out very clear that all the nine ships owned by Pratibha Shipping were facing many a problem and detained at different ports.
While Pratibha Cauvery and Warna are stuck at Chennai Port, Narmada and Chandrabhaga are in China, Koyna in Bahrain, Indrayani and Tapi in Mumbai, Bheema in Goa and Pratibha Neera at Visakhapatnam Port.
At the emergency meeting, Mr. Sunil Pawar assured that immediate steps would be taken to rescue all the 151 stranded crew members (on its different vessels) within 10 days. He said that he planned to sell Pratibha Chandrabhaga and Pratibha Narmada, stranded in China, and scrap Pratibha Tapi, Pratibha Warna, and Pratibha Cauvery after clearing its legal issues with Madras High Court.
Pratibha Neera and Pratibha Bheema will be re-commissioned for commercial operations while efforts are on to secure the release of M.T. Pratibha Indrayani, he assured.
Mr. Pawar said he would repay the financial assistance provided by NUSI from the proceeds of the sale and scrapping of ships under DGS monitoring.
As per the information provided on its website, the company was incorporated in 1995 by young technocrats from shipping and financial institutions. It is a closely held public limited company registered under the Indian Companies Act, 1956.
Initially, the company was owned by BT Shipping London, Anders Wilhelmsen Group, Norway, and Indian promoters.
Since December 2002, the ownership of the company is with the A. N. Pawar family. The company is headed by Mr. Sunil A. Pawar as Chairman and Managing Director.
Even though the company plans to use two of its vessels for commercial operation, it would be done only after getting due renewal of the ships’ statutory certification.