Moore Stephens: Shipping Pools – Potential Traps for the Unwary

Pressured by difficult markets and periods of economic uncertainty, shipping companies often turn to pool arrangements, not being aware of the financial, tax and jurisdictional implications of participating in such deals.

As “shipping pools can be an attractive option,” the international accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens has warned ship owners and operators to check all the implications of taking part in these arrangements.

“Interest in the concept generally is increasing as a way to leverage money and maximise economies of scale. But while it might make good commercial sense for like-minded shipping interests to pool their resources to mutual advantage, traps may lie in wait for the unwary,” Michael Simms, shipping partner, said.

Simms notes, “historically, tax-friendly offshore jurisdictions have been a natural fit for many shipping pools, but the recent increased focus on general tax transparency and on proper governance and reporting procedures may serve as a catalyst for change in this regard.”

Moore Stephens has advised on a number of pool agreements during the past 12 months. There are a range of tax issues to consider when setting up, amending or joining a pool. In the case of a new pool, it will be necessary to consider the tax position of each entity within the pool structure.

Other important considerations include the terms of the pool agreement itself, the status of the pool under competition law, the effectiveness of the marketing strategy, and the way pool accounts are prepared and submitted.

“Shipping pools have clear advantages for some. But it is a challenging market, and one subject to increasingly stringent evaluation. It would be a mistake to just dive in without careful consideration,” Simms said.

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