The shipping weekly Fairplay has reported that Islamic Asset Management, a subsidiary of London-based ABC International Bank, has launched an Islamic ship finance scheme called Al Safeena Liara Sukuk.

Bank sources said a pioneering Islamic ship finance transaction through the issuance of a $26 million Islamic bond had been arranged, structured and jointly underwritten with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank last April.

According to ABC International Bank, Al Safeena was the first such issue to combine Islamic equity with conventional debt for the same asset, in this case a VLCC called Venus Glory, owned by Pacific Star (PacStar) International Holding Corp, which in turn is owned by oil exporter Saudi Aramco.

Following the reported bitter divisions within the board of Great Eastern Shipping (GE Shipping), the company has formally confirmed that it is to restructure its business by de-merging its offshore interests into a new company. The decision was taken at a board meeting held on August 31 in order chart two separate growth profiles.

The restructuring envisages the de-merger of the entire offshore business that currently consists of drilling services, marine logistics, marine construction and port/terminal services. The change will be backdated to last April 1 by a High Court approved process.

The shareholding of the new company will mirror the shareholding in GE Shipping and consequently it is proposed that the share capital of GE Shipping is to be commensurately reduced. The new company, which is expected to be named Great Offshore, will thereafter be listed on the same stock exchanges that currently list GE Shipping i.e., BSE and NSE. The next stage in the process will be an independent valuation that will facilitate the proportionate distribution of shares.

Bahrain shipyard, Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard Co (ASRY) made history on September 1 when it completed repair of 111 vessels in the first eight months of this year according to the Bahrain Tribune.

"The repairs, with a total dead weight tonnage (dwt) of 6.05 million, is perhaps the largest-ever by any shipyard and far exceeds our own record of 90 vessels repaired during the same period in 2004," said chief executive Mohammad Al Khateeb, adding, "The vessels repaired ranged from ultra large crude carriers (ULCC) through chemical carriers, offshore rigs and dredgers,"

He also said that while 58 vessels came to the yard from outside the Arab and the Middle East countries, the others were from the region, which underlined the broad range of ASRY's clientele.

Clarkson PLC, the London-based international shipping services provider has announced a record first half underlying pre-tax profit, of £12 million on revenue of £57.7 million. The actual interim pre-tax profit is £23 million but this includes £11 million profit on the sale of the two combination carriers in which it had a 58 per cent interest.

A statement by the company said, "The result reflects the significant growth of our businesses worldwide. The company has grown both organically and through acquisition. The company's successful strategy of growing its ship-broking activities globally, following our customers to where the business is best served and broadening our product range is, and will continue to be, instrumental in building market share and maintaining our ability to generate good results for our shareholders."

The statement added, "Our most valuable asset is our staff. New offices in Athens, Dubai, London, Shanghai and Singapore reflect the importance we place on continuing to service our customers where their business is. We wish to ensure our employees achieve their business potential in the best working environment. Our main overhead, being staff remuneration, remains variable due to profit-linked bonuses. We also enjoy a substantial forward order book, which underpins earnings from year to year.

Thailand's largest shipping company, Precious Shipping, has said it expects record profits this year and a good 2006, with demand likely to remain strong on the back of rising global trade. The company operates runs 54 ships with a combined capacity of nearly 1.4 million dwt, mainly ships commodities and building materials.

Managing director Khalid Hashim, said that growing demand from China and India is set to give a big boost to the worldwide shipping industry over the next several years. "China is a big player in this market. China is the main demand, while India is starting to grow strongly.

The writer is a Dubai-based marine consultant.