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    Six tankers leave the Viken fleet

    A Norwegian owner is cutting its fleet by six ships.

    Bergen-based Viken Shipping will not extend charters on six 46,000-dwt products tankers it has had on long-term hire to Shell.

    The vessels, all built in the early 1990s, were sold to Sammy Ofer-controlled Tanker Pacific for $140m in 2004 but taken back on charter to cover the deal with Shell.

    The Shell charters are now expiring and shipowner Tom C Steckmest of Viken says the vessels are being handed back to Tanker Pacific.

    Four units ( Halia, Hastula, Hatasia and Haustrum ) have already been delivered and the last two will be handed over in September. (Hadra and Haminea)

    The move will reduce Viken's fleet from 24 ships to 19.

    Steckmest says he is keener to sell than to buy tonnage in the current market.

    Viken pursues a very conservative employment policy, with all its vessels fixed on long-term charters. The company's fleet includes seven handysize bulkers on charters to Fednav. The rest of the fleet are tankers from handymax size to VLCCs and are on charters to Shell and Total.
    ( for Shell the Achatina, Acavus, Trochus, Torinia and Tanea)

    Its two VLCCs are the 298,000-dwt New Wisdom (built 1993) and New Vision (built 1994), which Viken sold in 2004, also to Tanker Pacific, for $119m en bloc but were taken back on five-year bareboat charters at $20,000 per day to cover the long-term charters of the duo with Total.

    Last year, Viken booked an operating profit of NOK 156m ($26m), up from NOK 92m in 2005. Operating revenues increased from NOK 557m to NOK 743m. Steckmest owns 83% of the shares, the rest are held by company chairman Hans Olav Lindal.

    Last year, Viken, together with UK-based Nigel Hill, purchased shipmanagement company Wallem&Co, which in its time was set up by Steckmest's great-grandfather in Hong Kong

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