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Friday, Oct 27, 2006

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India Steamship plans to buy Aframax tanker

Santanu Sanyal

To increase tonnage, build modern fleet

Kolkata , Oct. 26

India Steamship (ISS), the shipping division of Chambal Fertilisers & Chemicals Ltd belonging to K.K. Birla Group, proposes to increase its tonnage shortly.

"We propose to acquire a second-hand, double hull Aframax crude tanker by the end of this year or early next year at an estimated cost of $65 million," Mr Arun Sharma, Executive President and CEO of ISS, told Business Line here on Thursday.

With this acquisition, the company's total tonnage will increase by 1.05 lakh dwt to more than 4.5 lakh dwt. "But our actual tonnage will drop to a little less than 4 lakh dwt as we propose to scrap the 1982-built Panamax tanker (60,725 dwt), Ratna Abha," Mr Sharma said. Currently the ISS fleet consists of four crude carriers, three of which are Aframax tankers — Ratna Puja (1.05 lakh dwt), Ratna Urvia (96,088 dwt), Ratna Shalini (89,960 dwt) — and Ratna Abha (60,725 dwt).

However, the division has on order with Hyundai of South Korea three more Aframax crude tankers of 1.05 lakh dwt each for delivery in 2008, with the option for ordering a fourth.

"Our objective is to become a major player in Aframax field which we have identified as the growth area," Mr Sharma said. With the scrapping of Ratna Abha and the acquisition of an Aframax tanker shortly, the fleet would consist of only Aframax tankers. However, two Aframax vessels in the existing fleet, namely, Ratna Urvi (1998-built) and Ratna Shalini (1997-built), which are single-hull tankers, would be phased out latest by 2010, he said, adding, "we would like to build a fleet of modern double-hull Aframax tankers in due course".

This will also help ISS build a fleet of vessels in the right age profile. Ratna Puja is 2006-built while the new acquisition is likely to be 2000 built. The vessels on order would be 2008 built. "We will be in the right mode to achieving our objective of having a modern Aframax fleet," he added.

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