Update: FSL Trust hit by resignations of half its directors, including top management

THE trustee-manager of First Ship Lease (FSL) Trust has been suddenly hit by resignations from four directors, including its chairman, chief executive and chief financial officer.

In filings on July 4, the Singapore-listed shipping trust said that all four are stepping down, leaving behind four other members.

FSL Trust owns ships it leases out. Last month, amid tough industry conditions, the trust demanded the return of two tankers after missed lease payments. The trust has also been in talks with its lenders over relaxing the terms of its debt repayments.

Chairman and independent director Wong Meng Meng, 65, and independent director Phang Thim Fatt, 56, had resigned after " differences in opinion in respect of the conduct of a board meeting", said FSL Trust in a statement.

A slightly different reason, "differences in opinion in respect of the management of FSL Trust and FSL Trust Management (the trustee-manager)", was cited for the departure of executive directors Philip Clausius, 44, and Cheong Chee Tham, 48.

Mr Clausius was also FSL Trust's chief executive and Mr Cheong its chief financial officer.

The shock departures have already alarmed Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, which on Thursday lowered its long-term corporate credit rating on FSL Trust to 'B' from 'B+'.

"In view of the challenging industry conditions and weakening credit profile of FSL's lessees, the sudden change in management may adversely affect the company's business," said S&P's statement.