-- This story originally appeared on the Web site of JOC's sister publication Breakbulk.com.
Beluga Chartering, a core part of the Beluga Group, has formally filed for insolvency protection as Germany's KG houses and shipowners withdraw their tonnage from the troubled firm.
In a statement, Beluga Group GmbH said the management board of Beluga Chartering GmbH today announced that they were advised to petition for the opening of insolvency proceedings and have done so at the local court in Bremen earlier today.
"The isolated insolvency filing of Chartering follows the discovery of material irregularities relating to revenues and liquidity, details of which have been notified to the relevant authorities," the statement read.
Chartering's parent company, Beluga Group Gmb and certain other key subsidiary companies continue to operate outside insolvency.
HCI Capital alone had taken 20 vessels out of the Beluga fleet and these are in the process of being transferred to Hammonia Reederei, which is jointly owned by HCI, Peter Döhle and GE Transport Finance.
Christina Hoke, HCI spokeswoman, said the company had cancelled its contracts with Beluga with immediate effect.
The decision was not directly related to the allegations of fraud and false accounting made against the Beluga directors and management, particularly founder and owner Niels Stolberg, she said. "The situation at Beluga is not sounding very healthy and we have to safeguard our investors. It is more a calculation based on economic reasons."
There were still talks going on between the KG houses about the possibility of a pool of vessels created from the Beluga ships, she added. "We are looking at what is best for the future."
HCI is not the only one to withdraw tonnage; Blue Water Capital and Oltmann are also believed to be transferring their vessels. Reports suggest that around 40 vessels are already being withdrawn.
Meanwhile, Stolberg was reported to have appeared before the Public Prosecutor's office in Bremen.
Oaktree Capital Management, the US investment firm which has taken control of Beluga, is believed to have asked the owners to take significant cuts in charter rates.
Beluga stated that it was pleased to confirm that its key stakeholders are involved in ongoing and constructive dialogue designed to achieve a common solution for Beluga.
An earlier Oaktree statement said it had been informed that Beluga would need additional funding in February 2011, which had been given by Oaktree "after a brief period of diligence".
But when it wanted to know more details about where the new money would be needed, "significant financial irregularities" came to light.