Tug takeover deal goes to court

Orcus is one of the larger tugs in the Harms fleet (Peter Barker) Orcus is one of the larger tugs in the Harms fleet (Peter Barker)
Industry Database

A legal challenge is surrounding the reported purchase of six tugs from the fleet of Harms Bergung Transport & Heavylift GmbH by Rotterdam based Teekay/ALP Maritime Services BV.

On 6 November ALP Maritime issued a press release stating they were: “ … pleased to announce that ALP has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire six powerful long distance anchor handling towing vessels, subject only to a satisfactory inspection of the vessels.” The vessels involved were the Orcus, Uranus, Ursus, Janus, Taurus and Magnus from the fleet of Harms Bergung.

On the same day Harms issued a statement saying they had been made aware of the press release from ALP Maritime and that they (Harms) had: “… commenced legal action claiming damages against the respective KGs and is seeking to have the shareholders’ resolution set aside.”

Five days later a further statement from Harms said they had learned that Teekay/ALP had started marketing the Harms vessels under new names since when they have had to explain to clients and partners that the move will be challenged adding that the legal action aimed at setting aside the shareholders’ resolution will: “… also affect the purchase agreements in question.” As a shareholder in each KG, Harms added they will monitor the market closely and seek compensation.

The statement also included details of the timeline leading up to the news becoming public stating: “In an email dated 4 November Kenneth Hvid (Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer) reached out to Harms Bergung and was informed by the management of Harms Bergung that Harms Bergung is seeking to have the shareholders’ resolution set aside. Harms Bergung have on the 5 November 2014 prior to Teekay’s press release dated 6 November 2014 informed that the sale is disputed and that Harms Bergung will take legal action.”

In what will likely be an on-going story it was later reported that the group of German KG companies that own majority shares in the six vessels had terminated the management contract with Harms. The managers of the KG had decided previously to sell the vessels with investors reportedly looking for “an advantageous exit”.

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ALP Maritime Services are an expanding company and have been in the news recently including when in February 2014 they were acquired by Teekay Offshore Partners. It was stated that ALP were to continue operating fully independently within the Teekay Group. The acquisition fits in with Teekay’s involvement as owners and operators of floating production/storage units and the demand for vessels capable of towing and supporting these units.

The same announcement included details of an order for four long distance anchor-handling tugs, each with a bollard pull in excess of 280 tonnes. The ALP Future class Ulstein SX157 vessels are currently under construction at Niigata Shipyard in Japan. Marketing information emphasises their suitability for employment in the FPSO and FLNG sectors.

In May 2010 ALP Maritime posted advance notice of the setting up of a joint venture company with Harms Bergung, to be known as HARMS-ALP Maritime B.V. A year later ALP reflected on a successful year for the partnership stating “Goals were set, the most prominent ones being optimising the Harms fleet occupation rate and introducing the vessels to ALP’s worldwide clients. Now, a year down the road, we are proud to see the results of the efforts and can carefully establish that the most prominent targets were indeed reached.”

The six vessels, built in Germany between 2006 and 2010 range from 192tbp to 306tbp. Two further tugs, also part of the Harms managed fleet, the 100tbp Pegasus and 104tbp Centaurus are not included in the list of those of interest to ALP Maritime.

By Peter Barker 

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