1980s: Entering Turbulent Waters
In the 1980s, the business environment for shipping changed. Many ship owners continued to believe that the slump was temporary; World-Wide faced this reality in a way that few others were prepared to do, and over a period of three years the fleet was reduced by more than half. Loans were repaid and assets were written down to their market values, avoiding the overhang of debt that was to put many other owners into financial jeopardy.
Sir Y.K. Pao retired in 1986, and his first son-in-law Dr Helmut Sohmen became Chairman of World-Wide Shipping. Sohmen continued his father-in-law’s disciplined approach to business, finding ways to reduce costs without putting the company’s reputation at risk.
Following this period of financial prudence, World-Wide Shipping was one of only a few financially-sound ship owners, and was wooed by shipyards to place new orders at attractive prices. The company placed orders for a total of six 260,000 DWT tankers with both Daewoo and Hyundai shipyards. The first of these vessels was aptly named World Phoenix, signaling a return to life after one of the bleakest recessions. The vessels were delivered just as the tanker market began to show signs of life and newbuilding prices began to rise.