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Trustee: Claims against Copenship pouring in

Claims against the bankrupt Copenship A/S and Copenhagen Bulkers estate are pouring in from across the globe after the companies filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday, trustee Per Astrup Madsen, partner at law firm Lett, tells ShippingWatch. The creditors face lukewarm prospects.

Per Astrup Madsen, partner and lawyer at law firm Lett, has been "extremely busy" since he, along with two other lawyers, was named trustee of the bankrupt Copenship estate on Tuesday.

"Claims are pouring in right now. New and fairly significant claims are reported non-stop. Claims from creditors look set to be huge, though there will likely be limited assets available for distribution among creditors," he tells ShippingWatch, adding that Copenship's bank holds a corporate mortgage in the carrier's assets.

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Copenship A/S and Copenship Bulkers were forced to throw in the towel on Tuesday as the dry bulk market had become too tough for the companies, and these were also involved in numerous insurance cases as well as problems related to receivables at various counter parties resulting in losses for Copenship.

The total figure has yet to be determined, as well as the combined number of creditors, as claims are still frequently filed with the trustees.

"My secretary is handling piles of documents containing claims, so we still don't have a complete overview," says Per Astrup Madsen.

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He explains that claims are reported from creditors across the globe. Around half of these claims come from bunker companies, while the other half comes from carriers and operators. The creditors include several Danish bunker companies, just as Chinese carriers and operators also feature prominently on the list so far.

"We're not at this point seeing one or several names dominate the claims. We're not dealing with one main supplier but several," says Per Astrup Madsen.

Shipping media Tradewinds reports on Friday that Taiwan's biggest carrier, Wisdom Marine Lines, has filed claims against Copenship A/S and Copenship Bulkers, and the same allegedly applies to Norwegian Western Bulk. But Per Astrup Madsen tells ShippingWatch that Western Bulk does not have a claim against Copenship.

Fighting for the remains

ShippingWatch reported on Thursday that Copenship, based in Copenhagen, is struggling to salvage the remaining parts of the company, namely the two entities Copenship MPP and Copenship Singapore.

"If there's life that means we have something to fight for. I'm still confident that we'll be able secure a financial restructuring agreement, which will be settled next week at the latest," CEO Michael Fenger told ShippingWatch.

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The bankruptcy has yet to impact employees at Copenship, as they are hired by company Copenship Management, but if Copenship MPP, which works with breakbulk cargoes, and Copenship Singapore, the operator's Singapore office, cannot be saved, this would result in layoffs.

"Right now it's very difficult to say anything about the outcome of the restructuring efforts and what things will look like going forward. This could be settled in an hour, but the agreement could also amount to nothing," said Michael Fenger, adding:

"We can't live with the uncertainty that currently surrounds our companies, and that's why we need to clarify these matters by next week at the latest."

Copenship acted on life-threatening market

The dry bulk market has for months been, and looks set to remain, extremely poor, hovering at the lowest level since the mid-1980s.

The current market could lead to an elimination race, shipping analyst Peter Sand, Bimco, told ShippingWatch earlier this week.

"The mere fact that the dry bulk market is at the lowest point since the mid-80s is a disaster. To put it mildly, this is not an exciting market. Carriers and operators are currently experiencing a market that is slowly losing value, and this means that the companies' values are also dwindling," he says in a comment on the bulk market in general.

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No companies involved in dry bulk will be left unaffected by the dry bulk crisis.

"The annual reports that are underway will not make a difference, the decisive factor is the companies' day-to-day business. We've been facing a serious dry bulk crisis for the past five years, so even though they've tried to navigate through this crisis, carriers and operators will lose the tools they need to secure continued financing for their activities if they don't have a cash flow," said Peter Sand, adding:

"When the markets continue to be this poor, the players are becoming increasingly worn out - and this applies to both large and small players, carriers and operators and local as well as global players."

Analyst Per Hansen of Nordnet shares this assessment of the market as worn down across the board.

"The debt level is crucial in terms of whether the dry bulk carriers will survive or not. Copenship had two problems, namely the low rates and chartered vessels, a problem that Norden also faced. Copenship's bankruptcy at this time shows that dry bulk is an industry that is going through a very tough period. If the rates remain this low we'll be seeing many bankruptcies over the next 12-15 months, because no one will be able to make money," he said on Wednesday, describing the dry bulk market as life-threatening.

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