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Tanker operators file against Winson Oil in latest Hin Leong fallout

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Reuters) - Maersk Tankers Singapore Pte Ltd and Scorpio LR2 Pool Ltd have filed separate claims in the Singapore High Court against Winson Oil Trading Pte Ltd for failing to fulfil its contractual obligations, court documents show.

The filings are the latest fallout in the unravelling of Hin Leong - once one of Asia’s top oil traders - which has left creditors scrambling to recoup about $3.5 billion in debt.

Hin Leong’s collapse has triggered competing claims for cargoes and assets and ensnared firms such as Maersk Tankers and Marshall Islands-based Scorpio in protracted legal proceedings in Singapore.

Winson had chartered an oil tanker from each of the shipping companies to load gasoil cargoes from Taiwan in February 2020. It later ordered them to transfer the gasoil to facilities held by the now defunct Hin Leong Trading, without providing the original bills of lading (BL), the court documents showed.

Maersk Tankers and Scorpio LR2 Pool said in their court statements that Winson had issued them Letters of Indemnity (LOI) for the discharge of the respective cargoes that lacked the original BL’s, which Maersk said it was obligated to accept under its prevailing ship hire agreement with Winson.

According to the court documents, the LOI guaranteed that Winson would provide sufficient funds to cover any claims, or avoid any ship detentions, resulting from delivering the cargoes without the original BL’s - a contract for the movement of the cargo and a document of title.

A spokesman for Winson Oil Trading said it “intends to vigorously defend” and “have every confidence in the outcome” of both cases but will not make any further comments until the court has issued its decision.

Maersk Tankers and Scorpio are now facing hefty claims and potential ship arrests from banks which claim entitlement to the gasoil cargoes transported aboard the tankers that Winson chartered, according to the documents obtained by Reuters.

After issuing the LOIs to each of the ship operators, Winson ordered Maersk Tankers to discharge the gasoil cargo at Hin Leong’s Universal Terminal in Singapore and instructed Scorpio’s ship to discharge some of its gasoil cargo into a Hin Leong tanker offshore Malaysia, according to the court documents.

In February this year, United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) issued Maersk Tankers a letter of demand alleging it was the lawful holder of part of the cargo discharged into Universal Terminal, and began proceedings to arrest its vessels.

The following month, Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC) informed the owners of the Scorpio-operated ship that the bank was the lawful owner of the gasoil cargo it transferred on Winson’s orders to Hin Leong Trading, and that it held them fully liable for the loss of the $13.6 million cargo.

In their respective statements, both ship operators said that Winson has “failed, refused and/or neglected” to provide the necessary funds claimed by the banks for the respective gasoil cargoes and to prevent the arrest of their vessels as stated in the respective LOI’s.

Maersk Tankers is demanding Winson offers nearly $41 million in security to UOB to prevent the arrest or detention of its vessel, while Scorpio is seeking guarantees of $16.9 million to OCBC, the court document said.

The pre-trial conferences for both cases are set for June 10 in the Singapore High Court. (Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh Editing by Robert Birsel)

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