ZURICH May 18 A dozen ships from the Swiss high
seas fleet are being sold off as the global shipping crisis
takes its toll on the quirky remnant of landlocked Switzerland's
efforts to ensure supplies of essential goods at times of
Worried about the security of food and energy supplies
during wartime, Switzerland launched its high seas fleet in
1941, putting Swiss flags on tankers and freighters it could
call on at times of need.
But as times changed and supply routes became more stable,
Switzerland has limited its support since 1959 to debt
guarantees for shipping lines able to reduce borrowing costs in
return for pledges to make ships available if Bern needed them.
Switzerland decided last year to end the debt guarantees
from mid-2017, fearing the financial exposure it faced as
shipping lines struggle with overcapacity.
It asked parliament this week to earmark 215 million Swiss
francs ($220 million) for potential losses on the 770 million
francs of outstanding guarantees.
The government has been trying since last year to help SCL
Reedereien AG and Swiss Chem Tankers AG to sell 12 vessels, even
at a heavy loss.
"This week binding sales contracts were signed in respect of
the ships owned by SCL and SCT, and the sales should be
completed within three months," the government said without
naming the buyer.
SCL and SCT said in a separate statement that they would no
longer have Swiss-flagged vessels after the sale of eight
freighters and four chemical tankers.
The General Guisan, for decades the 49-vessel fleet's
flagship, was sold to Chinese buyers in March.
($1 = 0.9784 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by David Goodman)