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Gulf Navigation orders six chemical tankers, talks expansion

Gulf Navigation is back from the brink, back ordering new vessels and even openly discussing expansion plans. 

The Dubai chemical tanker owner, which has skirted with bankruptcy for the past 18 months, has placed an order for six new chemical carriers with Chinese heavy industry giant Wuchang Group.

No financial details or vessel specifications were disclosed but Gulf Navigation said the order was part of a strategic long-term partnership with Wuchang Group that it hopes will pave the way for Chinese investment in the company and the wider Middle East sector.

It comes after Gulf Navigation announced it had reduced its debt from $36m to $21m last month and outlined plans to expand its operation to neighbouring UAE emirates Abu Dhabi, Khorfakkan and Fujairah, although no concrete plans have been unveiled.

Khamis Juma Buamim, board member, md and group ceo, said in the same statement that Gulf Navigation’s profit had increased 44% to AED 14.4m ($3.92m) in the first half of 2016.

Its fleet of 14 owned tankers currently operate between the Middle East seven ports in China and four in South Korea and the new six vessel order would “meet the increasing demand for transferring chemicals from the UAE and other GCC countries to global markets”.

"This partnership with Wuchang Heavy Industry Group, which is one of the largest companies worldwide in its field, is a significant step that will enable us to strengthen the company’s capabilities by expanding our fleet with modern and advanced tankers,” said Buamim.

“This will enhance our competitiveness in the transfer of chemicals, a market that is steadily expanding and is witnessing increasing demand.”

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Buamim said the partnership presents opportunities for large investment projects for Chinese companies “which will learn from us the opportunities and possibilities that can benefit the Chinese maritime economy through partnerships with the UAE and maritime companies”.

Interestingly, the signing ceremony with Wuchang was attended by Shaikh Daij Bin Salman Bin Daij Al-Khalifa, chairman of Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY), Hani Al Hamli, secretary general of the Dubai Economic Council, Eng. Rashed Al Hebsi, ceo of TASNEEF, Ali Shehab Ahmed, deputy ceo of Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC) and Aydin Al Aftan, president of Turkish Shipbuilders’ Association GISBIR.

“One of the most important pillars of this agreement is to pave the way for Chinese investors and attract them to work in the local market, which will reflect positively on the region as a whole,”  Buamim said.

Zhigang Yang, chairman of Wuchang Ship Heavy Industry Group, agreed the partnership went beyond the initial order for six tankers.

"This partnership will open new horizons for the supply of a wide range of ready-made ships to serve the various maritime sectors. These include oil tankers, commercial ships, specialised ships and other marine and industrial infrastructure facilities,” Yang said.

“We in fact look at this agreement as a first step towards a long-term partnership, designed to build a solid relationship capable of providing real investment opportunities for both parties to launch strategic promising projects in the future.”

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