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Top 10 in ship finance 2023

China’s Cexim takes the finance crown on account of its overseas expansion

Cexim is sending a clear message to grow shipping loans beyond China, despite challenges stemming from market forces, domestic economic conditions and geopolitical dynamics

01 / Wu Fulin, The Export-Import Bank of China

A mortgage loan portfolio approximating $18.5bn is sufficient for the Export-Import Bank of China, known as Cexim, to maintain its perch as the world's second-largest ship financier. However, the policy bank has sent a clear signal: we want more.

Earlier in 2023, chairman Wu Fulin dispatched his second-in-command, president Ren Shengjun, to meet with owners in Greece, a key part of Cexim’s push to expand in Europe.

The ability to provide reliable financing and alternatives to heavily environmental, social and governance-focused Western bank loans was the key message to convey during the trip.

This holds significance, given the current ship finance environment, where lenders are struggling with reduced demand due to still-high interest rates and owners’ solidified cash positions.

Beyond shipping, Cexim’s assets of more than Yuan6trn ($850bn) also demonstrates the state lender’s broader business scope, including financing for infrastructure, energy and trade.

These sectors have intricate links with shipping, especially as China’s economy remains a major contributor to the shipping industry’s demand.


From left: Michael Parker, Citigroup; Paul Taylor, Société Générale; and Stephen Fewster, ING

02 / Michael Parker, Citigroup, Paul Taylor, Société Générale and Stephen Fewster, ING (Poseidon Principles)

The Poseidon Principles have instilled carbon transparency at the heart of shipping’s financing, but they also demand action.
The banking sector’s focus on climate risk is already having a dramatic impact on the availability of capital and that is only going to increase from here on.
The Poseidon member banks, now representing 65% of global ship finance, collectively aligned their trajectory to the International Maritime Organization’s 2050 net zero goals and thus much closer to the Paris climate targets.
It is Michael Parker, chairman of global shipping, logistics and offshore at Citi, that has been most visible in these efforts, but Société Générale’s Paul Taylor and ING’s Stephen Fewster must also be recognised for their instrumental roles in laying out a framework for long-term change.


Akihiro Fukutome, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

03 / Akihiro Fukutome, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

Akihiro Fukutome was appointed president of the Japanese banking giant Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in April 2022, tasked with growing its overseas business.

Prior to becoming the de facto chief, he co-headed SMBC’s global banking unit and had led the bank’s Canada operations for years.

In shipping, the estimated portfolio of more than $10bn by end of 2022 placed the bank eighth in Petrofin’s global top ship lenders ranking. This has room to rise, given Japan's interest rate advantage and SMBC's further overseas expansion goals.

The Japanese bank has been active in ship finance domestically and abroad for more than 50 years. One main focus now is working closely with maritime customers on sustainable finance, supporting emissions reduction, and the transition to a decarbonised economy.

SMBC was also the first Asian financier to sign the Poseidon Principles, promoting green ship finance.


Yoon Hee-sung, Export-Import Bank of Korea

04 / Yoon Hee-sung, Export-Import Bank of Korea

Yoon Hee-sung was thrust into the hot seat at the Export-Import Bank of Korea in July 2022. Sluggish post-pandemic demand in Western economies, along with geopolitical supply chain disruptions, have staggered growth for the export-driven country.

In his New Year's message on January 1, 2023, the Kexim chairman and president said crisis will be turned into opportunity by embracing uncertainty and responding swiftly to market changes. This may set the tone for his tenure.

A $10bn loan portfolio by end-2022 lifted Kexim one spot to ninth in Petrofin’s global top shipping banks, reflecting warming demand as South Korean shipbuilding benefits from the newbuild recovery.

As a top global builder of liquefied natural gas carriers and dual-fuel vessels, the country's yards are seen benefiting in the long term from shipping’s decarbonisation wave. Their policy lender will need to prepare for more funding needs as well.

Yet challenges remain, particularly from Chinese rivals with strong government backing. China has been claiming a growing share of the high-end vessel market once dominated by South Korea.

Perhaps this is why Seoul launched its new shipbuilding strategy to seize more than 80% of next-generation shipbuilding. Providing better financial support is a key aspect of this masterplan. Yoon and his team must have offered their input and taken notes.


Bertrand Dehouck, BNP Paribas

05 / Bertrand Dehouck, BNP Paribas  

Bertrand Dehouck was made head of Transportation Capital Markets at BNP Paribas two years ago after the French bank consolidated its aviation, shipping and rail businesses under one heading. 

While there may be no global head of shipping as such, there is also no evident sign that a joined-up approach to the transportation sector is harming support for the shipping industry on Dehouck’s watch.

BNP Paribas remained the world’s largest shipping lender at the end of 2022 and in 2023, the portfolio is expected to have maintained its strength at about $20bn-$21bn, including the offshore and cruise segments. An estimated $14bn of this is related to lending for containerships, dry bulk carriers, tankers and gas carriers. 

Taken as a whole, the shipping portfolio is at least one-third larger than that of any other European bank. 

A $2.8bn refinancing package for GasLog offers an apt illustration of the bank’s shipping finance priorities. The 14-bank deal, globally co-ordinated by BNP Paribas and Citibank, is reputed to be the largest-ever for a shipping company. It also included specific performance-linked elements related to sustainability and gender diversity. 

The blockbuster GasLog financing ticked a number of boxes for the bank, including its focus on big clients and big amounts. Yet the most important box it wants a client to check is undoubtedly its commitment to the green transition.  

In 2023, BNP Paribas vowed to drastically scale back finance for oil and gas extraction and production, and to end funding of new oil and gas projects.

Although the bank is sometimes accused of being inflexible in its focus on big-ticket transactions, there is sometimes wiggle-room for lending to a medium-sized shipowner if the client can offer sufficient commitment to sustainability.  

For those deemed to meet its demanding criteria, BNP Paribas can call on its massive balance sheet to support even-larger projects unilaterally and can also be innovative in what it can bring to the table.

One example of its ability to step outside the traditional banking approach has been its co-operation with Japan’s SBI Leasing Services to market Japanese operating lease with call option financing structures, known as Jolcos, to the shipping industry.  


Xu Bin, Bocomm Leasing

06 / Xu Bin, Bocomm Leasing

With more than $18bn in vessel assets, Bocomm Leasing is China’s largest ship lessor and a top global ship financing player.

Chairman Xu Bin has reason to be proud of the company’s achievements, though most occurred before he was appointed in 2022.

Sitting in the top seat, he also bears more responsibility to guide Bocomm Leasing through current challenges.

Activity is languishing as owners and charterers — especially Western ones — borrow less from Chinese lessors, owing to market cycles but also other factors, such as geopolitics.

In October 2023, Xu travelled all the way to Greece for the Marine Money forum, informing attendees that more than 50% of his company’s vessel portfolio is now lower-emission ships — and it has an appetite for more.

China’s ship-leasing lenders owe thanks to Xu for his diligent external promotion. However, more importantly, the sector together will need to chart a new course for continued growth.


Christina Margelou, Eurobank

07 / Christina Margelou, Eurobank

Greek banks have become more important in financing the Greek shipping industry, which accounts for more than 60% of European shipping capacity — and Eurobank is now established in the front rank of lenders, with a portfolio that has grown to more than $3.5bn, including commitments.

Its head of shipping for the past decade, Christina Margelou, is highly rated for the way she has solidly built up the portfolio. She has also brought it into an era where banks are expected to play a role in the industry’s green transition.

Margelou recently summed up Eurobank’s approach to bankrolling shipping like this: “In a carbon-constrained world, commitment to sustainability with use of viable technology will secure a long-term future for shipping.”

The bank has been funding the Greek shipping staples of dry bulk carriers, tankers and containers — and, to a lesser extent, gas carriers — through its Athens head office and offices in Cyprus and Luxembourg. 

There has been an increasing focus on newbuildings and sustainability-linked loans and the bank’s prioritisation of reliability also extends to its own operation, says Margelou, with speed and reliability of service among Eurobank’s priorities. 


Paul Leand, AMA Capital Partners and Eagle Bulk Shipping

08 / Paul Leand, AMA Capital Partners and Eagle Bulk Shipping

Paul Leand Jr is the managing director and chief executive of Stamford-based AMA Capital Partners, a boutique merchant bank. He is also chairman of the board of New York-listed Eagle Bulk Shipping, an owner of mid-sized dry bulk vessels.

Earlier in 2023, AMA announced a partnership with asset manager ABL Corporation, focusing on deal restructuring and origination of investment opportunities in the shipping sector. Leand said the partnership would broaden AMA’s platform, particularly into the Jolco and Japanese markets.

Meanwhile, Leand and Eagle Bulk’s board led the company through a $219m repurchase of Oaktree Capital Management’s 28% stake in the company, in a move that also saw Eagle adopt a shareholder rights plan to fend off open-market purchases by boxship owner Danaos.

Leand said the share repurchase was in the best interest of Eagle’s shareholders and necessary to eliminate “potential disruption” from the sale of a large stake in the company.

Analysts mostly viewed the move as value-accretive, but John Coustas-led Danaos, unsurprisingly, was not too happy; the following weeks saw Danaos’ and Eagle’s board trade barbs.

Danaos’ complaints over Eagle’s moves aside, the boxship lessor would not have amassed a double-digit stake in the company if it was not regarded as top operator in the industry.

This was highlighted by the fact that fellow bulker owner Castor Maritime also acquired a double-digit stake in the company.


Marina Hadjipateras, TMV

09 / Marina Hadjipateras, TMV

Marina Hadjipateras founded TMV along with fellow general partner Soraya Darabi. TMV is an early-stage venture capital firm focusing on supply chain, logistics, maritime, sustainability, future of work and care.

Hadjipateras founded the VC firm after serving as vice-president of investor relations at Dorian LPG, her family’s shipping company, which she helped take public in 2014.

She has used her vast experience in shipping to focus on companies that seek to transform the supply chain, transport and logistics industries to become more efficient and sustainable.

Among other companies, Hadjipateras has led key investments in Nautilus Labs, ShipSkart, Freightify, Portcast, GreyWing and OnePort365.

She has also served as vice-chair of Intertanko’s environmental committee for more than a decade, and is a mentor for Endeavor, a global community of entrepreneurs looking to build ecosystems in emerging and underserved markets around the world.

Hadjipateras holds a BA from Georgetown University and is a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy’s STCW programme.


Michael Kirk, RMK Maritime

10 / Michael Kirk, RMK Maritime 

RMK Capital provides investment banking and securities-related services, while RMK Maritime complements with other maritime services such as non-securities maritime advisory, first-mortgage debt and the sale leaseback of maritime assets.

Michael Kirk is the managing director and co-founder of the London, New York, and Indianapolis-based outfits. He oversees US operations and focuses on capital raising, structuring and advisory.

With more than 16 years in maritime finance, Kirk has advised on some $5bn worth of transactions.

He is also the head of US for Ascension Finance, a lending platform providing senior, first lien debt secured against maritime assets.

Prior to joining RMK and Ascension, he founded MTK Capital, a US-based maritime advisory that advised shipping companies and institution investment, and which ultimately merged into RMK.


The Top 10 in finance list is compiled by the Lloyd’s List editorial team and considers the most influential people in commercial banking, investment banking and alternative finance


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