Schade – nach 29 Jahren musste das Traditionsunternehmen Eckhardt Marine GmbH am 21. Dezember 2010 Insolvenz anmelden. Das Geschäft des Abwrackens ausgedienter Seeschiffe hat die Eckhardt-Gruppe schon seit über 100 Jahren betrieben.

Ein wesentlicher Wirtschaftsfaktor in Ländern wie Indien, Pakistan und Bangladesh ist das Recycling „dicker Pötte“. Die Löhne sind niedrig, die Anforderungen an den Arbeitsschutz gering.

Das Geschäftsmodell des „cash buyers“ basiert auf der Fähigkeit, gekaufte Schiffe jederzeit bar zu bezahlen. Barzahlung steht gerade bei internationalen Reedern, die ihre Schiffe zur Entsorgung und zum Recycling liefern, hoch im Kurs: Lieber schnell Bargeld in der Hand als auf spätere Zahlung aus Bangladesh oder Pakistan zu hoffen.

Das Insolvenzverfahren wurde am 4.3.2011 eröffnet.

In Deutschland gibt es nun zunächst keine „cash buyer“ mehr, die Wettbewerber haben ihren Sitz in London oder Indien.

Scrap ‘shock’ as Eckhardt hits the wall

The demise of a former ‘big force’ on the cash-buying scene means the sector is almost entirely dominated by the Indian subcontinent.

Eckhardt Marine, once a major force on the global ship-demolition scene, is in the hands of an insolvency administrator.

The collapse of the Hamburg-based outfit is seen in the market as possibly the start of a shake-out that could see the number of cash buyers reduced to a handful.

Speculation is rife as to what triggered Eckhardt’s downfall, although it has been noticeable for some time that it has been less active.

Falkenpost / Pixabay

“They were a big force in their heyday,” said one rival.

If Eckhardt disappears, it will leave the cash-buying scene dominated almost totally by companies headed up by Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi principals.

Eckhardt was previously a subsidiary of a consortium involving steel companies ThyssenKrupp and Klockner, as well as VIAG/Deutsche Bank.

It was taken over in a management buyout by directors Briac Beilivert and Guenther Werle. Beilivert declines to comment on the problems.

Unconfirmed talk in the industry is that Eckhardt, whose roots can be traced back more than 100 years, reached crisis point with its banks after a move into owning and operating ships prior to beaching them turned sour.

Another suggestion from sources in Germany is that it was finally sunk when an arbitration ruling, possibly involving a VLCC, went against it.

“Eckhardt used to have very good financing lines from German banks and they were a very well-respected name,” said one source.

But he claims a few other names in the demolition industry are struggling at the moment because banks have cut lines of credit. Cash buyers’ access to finance and improving their professionalism will determine their survival, he argues.

Another cash buyer says that Eckhardt’s problems appear to have been mounting for a couple of years.

He points to instances where the company has kept its name in the market by sourcing demolition vessels but is believed to have been “fronted” by a separate cash buyer with available funds.

“Maybe brokers will have to be a bit more selective in who they are dealing with,” he added.

Although various German broking houses involve themselves in demolition deals, Eckhardt is thought to have been the only cash buyer, certainly of any size, based in the country.

Upon hearing the news of Eckhardt entering administration, one broker said: “It is very much a shock, although we all know that Eckhardt has not been totally active or competitive for a lengthy period of time.”

The administrator is said to be assessing the situation before deciding whether or not the company can continue trading. It is said a decision could take two or three months.

If the story of the London arbitration ruling is correct, then this is likely to have tipped Eckhardt over the edge rather than being the main cause.

A demolition case is likely to involve just a deposit, although details remain unclear.

One source says it is regretful for the individuals involved but “it is one less name in the market place” to compete against. He describes Beilivert and Werle as probably proud people for whom the scrapping business is their livelihood.

He stresses that cash buyers, “despite what it says on the tin”, often remain heavily reliant on the banks to finance part of the deposits and letters of credit when buying from the owners and selling to the breakers.

“In this business you must have your wits about you,” he said. “If you get a little greedy, think it is easy and buy at the wrong time, it comes back to bite you.”

By Geoff Garfield London Tradewind

Published: 23:01 GMT, 13 Jan 11 | updated: 20:22 GMT, 12 Jan 11