Private UK shipowner Union Maritime has logged a huge improvement in earnings after selling older tankers.

It said in accounts filed at UK Companies House that net profit last year was a record $150m, up from $2.5m in 2021— a 5,900% increase.

The result includes the owned tankers and the operation of the bulkers that are owned by an affiliate.

Managing director Laurent Cadji called 2022 a “strong year driven by a firm tanker market”.

Key decision

Ebitda jumped to $232m against $80.6m, while revenue was up at $475m from $327m in 2021.

The tanker fleet stood at 47 ships, up from 45, at year-end, with the number of bulkers unchanged at 18.

The company’s website now lists 46 tankers and 12 bulkers, plus two offshore vessels and 12 newbuildings.

The board had made a “key decision” to sell older vessels at a profit, contributing to the result, Cadji added.

“The group continues to invest in the expansion and modernisation of the fleet as demonstrated by our newbuilding programme for 10 eco-design chemical and product tankers, as well as the charter of five scrubber product tankers for delivery in 2025 to 2026,” he said.

Union Maritime said it had sold 24 older tankers, releasing liquidity of $122m in 2022 and a further $160m so far this year.

The cash has been reinvested in 14 younger ships, as well as taking on a number of young eco vessels on medium-term charters.

The average age of the fleet was cut to 10 years from 12 by the end of 2022, and is now eight years.

Union Maritime had 60% of the fleet on fixed charters, unchanged from the year before.

Cash stood at $71m, up from $51m.

“The growth of our technical management unit enabled us to bring the technical management of a majority of the fleet in-house,” Cadji said, giving better oversight and control of operating costs in an inflationary market.

Nearly 80% of the fleet is now handled in-house, up from 61% in 2021.

In this period, Union Maritime opened offices in Athens, Singapore and Tokyo, giving it new opportunities and access to a wider shipping network.

Interest costs were brought down through hedging of bank debt and cheaper capital on refinancings.

The corporate finance unit raised $133m, versus $155m a year earlier, with the most expensive borrowings and preference share debt repaid.

The owner has fitted energy-saving devices on a number of vessels.

Projected annual savings from this total 5,000 tonnes of CO2, and fuel reductions are worth more than $1m.

Union Maritime has committed charter income of $115m until 2024.

The company was founded by former Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley oil trader Cadji in 2006.

This month, brokers reported Union Maritime buying Empire Product Tankers’ 50,000-dwt Nikos M (built 2020).

Union Maritime’s website confirmed that the Nikos M is under its management under the new name of Eden.

Similar transactions seem to have happened below the radar earlier this year for another pair of tankers in the Empire fleet: the 50,000-dwt Orpheus and Jason (both built 2019), which feature on Union Maritime’s website as Mersey and Tweed.

The three deals happened months ago and their exact nature remains unclear.