Italian bank UniCredit is scaling down its ship financing operations in order to boost its capital reserves, it said on Tuesday.

Italy's largest bank by assets has a shipping book of roughly 9 billion euros (7 billion pounds) making it one of the top 10 ship financiers worldwide.

The lender will reduce its shipping exposure by renewing loans only very selectively, a company spokeswoman said, adding: We have no plans to sell (shipping) portfolios or parts of portfolios.

Many banks are keen to shed dollar-denominated assets such as ship and trade finance loans, among others to meet tougher capital rules imposed on euro zone lenders.

Last week industry sources said Lloyds Banking Group was aiming to sell its $10 billion portfolio of shipping loans.

France's two biggest listed banks, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas , also plan to exit or shrink non-core businesses such as shipping, according to bank memos.

UniCredit just closed a 7.5 billion euro rights issue to plug an 8 billion-euro capital shortfall identified by the European Banking Authority.

As banks pull back from heavy industry sectors amid a deepening euro zone debt crisis, shipping companies -- already hit by weak earnings and an oversupply of vessels ordered in the good times -- are facing a growing funding squeeze.

Danish shipping company Torm A/S said this month its banks had agreed to extend a deferral of instalments on its $1.8 billion of debt and hoped to reach a comprehensive financing solution to secure its future.

UniCredit said in November last year that it would shed non-core businesses and mentioned shipping as an example.

For example, we will leave (...) aircraft or shipping, because these are not businesses really important for our customer base, Chief Executive Federico Ghizzoni told an analyst conference call at the time.

At the same time, the bank is losing key staff to rivals, with its former head of Global Shipping, Ingmar Loges, due to start a new job shortly at HSH Nordbank, an HSH spokesman said.

According to Thomson Reuters LPC data, UniCredit has already scaled down its shipping business in recent years.

While serving as lead arranger in 12 deals with a total volume of 842 million dollars in 2008, UniCredit organised only three deals worth 276 million dollars altogether in 2011.

(Reporting By Jonathan Saul in London, Arno Schuetze and Alexander Huebner in Frankfurt and Silvia Aloisi in Milan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)