A VLCC owned by an obscure Hong Kong-registered shipowner has been languishing under arrest in Singapore for the past two weeks at the request of China’s Qingdao Free Trade Development Investment Management Co.

The plaintiff in this case, whose line of business Bloomberg says includes investing in commodity contracts, tax liens, venture capital companies, and other miscellaneous investing, seized the 299,000-dwt tanker Inherit (built 2000) over a cargo claim on 14 November, but on Tuesday its owner HK Albatross Maritime had yet to secure its release.

The amount that China’s Qingdao Free Trade Development Investment Management Co is seeking to recoup from HK Albatross Maritime is no trifling amount. Court records available to TradeWinds put the claim amount at SGD 251m ($188m), a hefty sum to raise for any shipowner with a single vessel that VesselsValue indicates is worth $33.2m.

Further details about the nature of the cargo claim were not immediately available, and neither the plaintiff nor HK Albatross Maritime, which has no listed phone number, could be reached for comment.

Asian tanker sector sources believe HK Albatross Maritime is Chinese-backed. It has been the registered owner of the Inherit since March of this year, which is around the same time Qingdao Free Trade Development Investment Management Co filed its claim against the vessel with the High Court of Singapore.

S&P Global’s International Ships Register shows that prior to coming under HK Albatross Maritime ownership, the Inherit traded under the same name for several single-ship entities since it was sold by India’s Sevens Islands Shipping in December 2020.

These companies, HK Dada Trading Group, China National Engineering, and Marco Polo Marine, all used small ship management companies in either Hong Kong or China that were formed to manage one or two peripatetic tankers and disappeared shortly after these vessels moved on quickly to their next owner and manager.

The arrested VLCC Inherit has had four Hong Kong-registered owners since it was sold as Lavails (seen here) by Seven islands Shipping in December 2020 Photo: Seven Islands Shipping

Vastfield Shipping, which S&P Global lists as the Inherit’s current technical manager, has been in business since 2014, according to Hong Kong corporate records.

However, the company’s listed address is that of a corporate registry company, and it also has no listed phone number.