Ship manager Vallianz Holdings yesterday responded to disturbing reports that it had abandoned crew aboard three vessels by stating that it has begun the process of paying workers their wages due.
The firm, which is a former associate of beleaguered energy firm Swiber Holdings, also assured investors that it is business as usual.
Vallianz made the statement to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) after maritime news site Splash 247 reported earlier this week that the crew of the Swiber Explorer had been left to fend for themselves off Dubai since June.
Crew members on two other vessels off Dubai - the Swiber Navigator and Swiber Sandefjord - have reportedly not been paid since July.
Vallianz told the SGX that it has transferred the salaries for the crew of the Explorer and the Navigator until August. They should receive payments in their accounts within two days.
It has also arranged to settle the August salaries due to the Sandefjord crew before the end of this week, and has promised to settle all outstanding salaries of the 39 crewmen of all three vessels for the month of September by the end of this week.
Vallianz also clarified that it is not the owner of the three vessels. The Explorer and the Navigator were owned by the Swiber group, but the "ownership has been affected" since Swiber opted for judicial management in late July. The Sandefjord was owned by Sentosa Offshore, but that firm filed for liquidation on Sept 21.
Vallianz added that it "has been working closely with the relevant parties to review the current status of the three vessels". It also noted that the Explorer is detained in Dubai, where regulations require a court application to be made to repatriate or change the existing crew for detained vessels. Vallianz did not clarify if such an application had been made.
Meanwhile, frustration continues to rise among the stranded seafarers, with one Indonesian aboard the Explorer attempting suicide yesterday, according to Splash 247.
Vallianz declined to comment on the total dollar value of the wages owed, but observers said these events cast doubt on whether Vallianz can pay up on a $60 million bond that matures on Nov 22.
Vallianz, which held just US$8.1 million (S$11 million) in cash and cash equivalents as at June 30, is also facing US$63.5 million in claims from Swiber's judicial managers, though Vallianz has rejected the claims.
KGI Fraser Securities analyst Joel Ng said: "Cash looks very tight. They definitely need to raise more cash via a rights issue or placement, if that is still possible for them."
Earlier this month, Vallianz postponed an Oct 17 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) meant to decide on a rights issue. The decision came after Swiber said it wanted to take part in the rights issue and use the funds raised to set off the debts it owes to Vallianz.
Vallianz has not set a new date for the EGM.
The company said in response to queries from The Straits Times: "Vallianz is in discussion with its major shareholder Rawabi Holding as well as other third parties regarding the redemption or possible refinancing of the notes due in November."
Its shares fell 0.2 cent or 11.8 per cent to close at 1.5 cents yesterday.