NETHERLANDS - Dredging company Boskalis, the new owner of Dutch maritime service provider Smit Internationale, has offered the ailing Smit pension scheme €30m to stave off a 13.2% benefits cut.

Boskalis said this additional contribution should be enough for the pension fund to improve its coverage ratio within its short-term recovery plan.

However,  Peter Berdowski, chief executive, stressed that the company's offer was conditional to the pension funds' participants abandoning their legal action into possible mismanagement by the Smit scheme's board.

Pim van Dorp, the pension fund's new and 'external' chairman, said: "With this contribution, we can bring up the funding of our pension plan to 97% and don't need to cut pension rights."

That said, Van Dorp, who is also vice-chairman of the pension fund of industrial conglomerate Stork, stressed that the pension fund's participants council and accountability body needed to drop legal action.

Both have argued that the board prioritised the company's interests over their pensions.

According to participants, the scheme's board removed the company's obligation to an additional contribution in the event of a shortfall.

Maya Kuyt-Fokkens of law firm AdvoKuyt said: "The pension fund's policy seems to have mainly be determined by the company's board."

Until 1 September, Smit's chief financial officer had chaired the pension fund.

Kuyt added: "We want to find out whether the scheme has taken all interests into account in a balanced way."

Van Dorp, the pension fund's new chairman, suggested that at least part of the scheme's pensions could be transferred to an insurer.

Recently, Berdowski claimed the Smit board had repeatedly declined to accept its offer to contribute €25m to Smit's pension fund during the take-over negotiations.

In an interview in news daily NRC Handelsblad, Berdowski said Smit preferred to pay out the money as dividend to its shareholders.