01-09-2021 Golden Ocean explores containers on bulkers as boom times opens new options, By Holly Birkett, TradeWinds
Golden Ocean Group is actively looking at how its bulkers could be used to carry containers, according to its chief executive. Meanwhile, Star Bulk Carriers has denied it has done a deal to carry boxes on one of its capesizes. Golden Ocean is working with classification societies to investigate how boxes could be carried on vessels ranging in size from ultramax up to capesize, company chief executive Ulrik Andersen told TradeWinds. But the move is more about having options than a concrete strategy, he added.
“What we are doing in practice is to get [the ships] recertified or call it, co-certified as container vessels. They will not stop being bulk carriers. Once certified as container vessels, we shall see if there’s any business that we can do thereafter,” he explained. “It’s very early days for us. We are investigating the possibilities because we always look at whatever opportunities are out there.”
Andersen stressed that container cargoes are not a driver of today’s strong bulker market, “yet, of course, it tells a story about the unique situation we are in across all shipping segments“. Containership capacity is so scarce right now that owners of handysize bulkers and multipurpose vessels have been modifying their ships to be able to carry boxes to cash in on sky-rocketing freight rates. The adaptations being made are mainly unsophisticated, in-hold modifications that do not need the services of a shipyard or approval from classification societies. Laden boxes are also being carried below deck in standard bulkers with non-box-shaped holds.
A capesize bulk carrier was last week said to have been fixed to carry containers from the European continent to China. Star Bulk was said to have been the carrier, but chief executive Petros Pappas denied the rumor. “No, Star Bulk has not done any work towards loading containers on a capesize vessel. The rumors are wrong as usual,” he told TradeWinds on Wednesday. The unnamed vessel is said to have been fixed at a rate that would equate to $43 per tonne on the Brazil-China voyage basis. The charterer is paying $20,000 per container for 200 teu, or $3,000 per box for 1,200 empty 20-foot containers.
Golden Ocean has already seized on certain opportunities to carry “unconventional” cargoes aboard its bulkers this year. In April, a Golden Ocean vessel was among the three capesizes fixed to carry logs from Uruguay to China, as TradeWinds reported. Andersen said at the time that Golden Ocean was “excited about finding new business partners and opening up new trades”. Since carrying the logs, Golden Ocean vessels have not transported any further extraordinary cargoes, Andersen confirmed to TradeWinds.