Finland’s Neste Oil plans to exit shipping business

Finland-based Neste Oil plans to sell all of its own shipping vessels and outsource the ship management functions currently covering them, the company said on Thursday. 

Around 320 ship management personnel would transfer to a new employer, according to Neste Oil officials.

Meanwhile, Neste Shipping's chartering functions would be retained and integrated with Neste Oil's organization. Going forward, Neste Oil intends to source its marine transportation through contractual arrangements.

"Neste Oil's shipping needs have changed in recent years," said Neste Oil CEO Matti Lievonen. "The proportion of the group's cargoes carried by Neste Shipping ships flying the Finnish flag has steadily declined. Because of its high costs level, Neste Shipping has been unable to compete profitably on the international shipping market.

"Ensuring the long-term continuity of the business in its present form would also call for significant investments," he added. "As a result, we are now planning to exit the shipping business and reinforce our focus on developing our core cleaner traffic solutions."

As part of the restructuring, Neste Oil plans to sell five tankers (Mastera, Futura, Neste, Kiisla, and Suula) and three tugs (Ukko, Ahti, and Esko) to companies owned by Finland's National Emergency Supply Agency and the Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company. These will be sold at the current market value. Neste Oil will lease the vessels back under long-term contracts and they will continue to sail under the Finnish flag.

"I am glad that we have been able to find an arrangement that will keep the key vessels needed by Neste Oil in Finnish ownership and in use by us," said Lievonen. "These vessels, together with vessels chartered from other shipowners, will meet our current shipping needs and ensure that we are able to continue to provide our customers with a high level of service. The arrangement  will continue to ensure Finland's security of supply in the area of marine-based oil transportation."

In addition, Neste Oil said it plans to sell three of its other tankers -- Tempera, Purha, and Jurmo -- at a later stage, together with its 50% ownership of another three tankers -- Stena Poseidon, Palva, and Stena Arctica -- which are owned together with the Stena Group of Sweden.

As part of the restructuring, Neste will transfer its ship management functions covering the crewing and maintenance of its vessels to a commercial ship management company that would take over the operations of the vessels that would remain in Neste Oil usage following the restructuring. Neste Shipping's ship management functions currently employ around 300 people at sea and 20 people on shore.

In connection with the outsourcing, Neste is beginning statutory employer-employee negotiations covering all the land- and sea-based personnel. The plan is to transfer these personnel to a new employer. The planned sale of the Tempera, Purha, and Jurmo at a later stage could impact personnel in the event that the new employer is unable to offer substitutive positions to those concerned.

Financial impact

If the plans are implemented as intended, no significant capital gains or losses are expected. However, the arrangement is expected to free up €60 million of capital from Neste Oil's balance sheet and improve the company’s results by €10 million annually during the coming years.

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