The use of bilateral and club deals will continue to be the main method of financing ships around the world.

Panellists speaking at Marine Money’s Gulf Ship Finance conference in Dubai agreed that the traditional syndications market, where banks will underwrite a shipping finance deal and look to syndicate the deal out to the market, remains inactive.

“Club and bilateral deals are here to stay,” said one panellist.

There is now a growing trend for ship owners to arrange their own club financing, negotiating each portion of the deal with individual banks themselves.

Panellists also noted that a number of international banks are retreating from the shipping finance market, but other institutions, including regional banks, are either beginning to enter the market or expanding their market share.

Speaking on the panel, Chris Phillips, head of marine finance at the National Bank of Fujairah, says the bank is looking to grow its shipping business. In recent years, the bank has been mainly focused on offshore, but is aiming to increase its activity across a variety of shipping sectors.

“It is a good time for us to start doing business,” he said.

The panellists also spoke of the increasing interest among banks to lend into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) and offshore market. However, Felix Ulbricht, director of Shipping Asia at Deutsche Bank, said he remained ‘cautious’ about the market despite the wider market enthusiasm.