Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Still Going Nowhere Fast

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Still Going Nowhere Fast

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter @BarbaraHodgson5

THREE ships which came sailing in - then never left - are still a talking point in Tynemouth as uncertainty over their future rumbles on.

The three bulk carriers, whose owner is believed to have gone bust, have now become a fixture on the horizon and show no signs of moving on.

Replacement crews have been keeping them ticking over since their original crews were allowed to leave in June.

The ships are the Vyritsa, Brasschaat and Zarechensk which were owned by Belgian company Sobelmar, known to have hit problems as long ago as March 2015.

Bulker operator Sobelmar Antwerp NV was owner, and manager, while the ships were registered in the name of SBM-1 INC, a company "care of" Sobelmar and sharing the same company address in Belgium.

Brasschaat is named after its home district in Flanders while the other ships have Russian names, indicating foreign interests in the company.

Sobelmar, whose contracts included fertilizers, grain and coal plus 800,000 tonnes of apatite concentrate - a phosphate - shipped each year between Murmansk and Western Europe and the Baltics, was reported to be seeking bankruptcy protection back in 2015 after restructuring talks with its German bank broke down.

This year the lender HSH Nordbank was granted control over the four-bulker fleet, according to shipping news service TradeWinds. The trio off North Tyneside's coast had initially been part of Sobelmar's plans to renovate an ageing fleet.

They were ordered and built, along with a fourth bulker, at Nanjing Dongze Shipyard in China, and the near-33-ton Brasschaat was the first to be delivered to the company in 2009, followed by its sister ships.

They first caught the eye of local residents months ago, moored at varying distances just off Tynemouth pier, and they are a now-familiar backdrop on seaside snaps. …

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