Eastern Bulk Carriers is to be wound down in the near future as the Tidemand family moves away from owning and trading vessels, TradeWinds can reveal.
This will lead to redundancies, as employees learned at meetings at the Norwegian operator’s office in Lysaker, Oslo, on Thursday.
Eastern Bulk is owned by Tidships, in which majority ownership is held by Kristin Tidemand Eckhoff, who acquired her sister Caroline Figenschou Tidemand’s stake in May. Their father, Otto Tidemand, who founded Eastern Bulk in 1994, holds the remaining 0.3%.
Tidemand Eckhoff, Eastern Bulk’s chair and chief commercial officer, told TradeWinds the plan is for Tidships to focus on financial investments and diversify its interests.
“The Tidships group will maintain a solid business for the future targeting attractive capital returns for the owners,” she said.
“On this background, the group has made a strategic decision to transform from our traditional physical shipping operation to primarily focusing purely on financial investments as a family office.
“Consequently, the group will no longer operate vessels on a daily operational basis after current commitments are completed.”
This will enable the group to realise its vision “for growth, being family-owned, having a long-term view, history and diversification”.
“The new strategy is tailored for a flexible approach to investments focusing on attractive risk-adjusted returns and diversification with continued ties to the shipping industry,” she said.
Tidships booked $361,000 in profit before tax in 2022, down from $48.8m the previous year.
At its height, Eastern Bulk typically operated between 20 and 40 supramaxes and ultramaxes.
The winding down of Eastern Bulk is perhaps a little unexpected, as public filings show the company is in good shape financially. It booked profit before tax of $9.8m for its 2022 financial year, down from $14.5m the previous year.
But the Tidemand family’s other shipping concerns have had mixed fortunes over the past few years.
Family-backed shipbroker Lorentzen & Co, where Figenschou Tidemand was a broker, declared bankruptcy in June after racking up losses.
A former Lorentzen & Co employee told TradeWinds at the time that several of the company’s best-performing brokers had left due to a conflict of personalities with Figenschou Tidemand.
The family’s shipowning entity, Stove Shipping, sold its last vessel — which was commercially managed by Eastern Bulk — to Norwegian shipowner Gearbulk in June this year. The 55,900-dwt, semi-open-hatch supramax Stove Ocean (built 2013) was sold for around $21m and has been renamed Linden Arrow.
The sale proceeds will probably offset the retained losses that have accumulated at Stove Shipping over the past five or so years, which totalled $18.4m in 2022.
Stove Shipping’s net profit before tax last year was $202,000. Total debt and equity was just $26,000 in the black.
Tidemand Eckhoff became chair of the boards of Eastern Bulk and Stove Shipping in July, following the resignation of Christian Andersen.
She took a more direct role in the business in 2020, and her sister did the same at Lorentzen & Co at around the same time.
As well as Eastern Bulk, Stove Shipping and subsidiary Stove Bulk, Tidships owns Tidships Services and holds 81% of Lilleaker Shipping Advisors, the new legal name for now-bankrupt Lorentzen & Co.
This story has been amended since its original publication to reflect the fact that Caroline Figenschou Tidemand has not been a shareholder in Tidships since May.