Sailing Away

June 15, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence conglomerate is exiting from its ship-owning business because of lower earnings from chartering and rising maintenance costs, the company has said. The group has begun selling its fleet of small cargo ships which until recently helped boost the group’s bottom line.

The group made a “strategic decision” during the year to shift its focus from ship owning due to the inherent costs associated with the business, Aitken Spence Managing Director Rajan Brito said in the company’s annual report.

Aitken Spence operates its ships through a joint venture with Ceyline Holdings, a group of companies with interests in different shipping activities such as ship agency, crewing, bunkers and freight forwarding.

It ships ranged in size from the 1,300 TEU Indonesian Star to the
10,000 DWT multi-purpose vessel Sea Pioneer, and the 558 TEU Echo Dani.

Two ships owned by Aitken Spence group’s maritime transport division have already been sold and the sale of three remaining ships is planned for the current year.

However, the company said, other units of its maritime transport division continued to post high returns.

It also acquire