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Stena Bulk: Chemical carriers to the fore

Stena Bulk: Chemical carriers to the fore

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Gothenburg: Yesterday saw Stena Bulk along with joint venture Stena Weco and Indonesian palm oil producer Golden Agri Resources announce they are investing around $100m in six secondhand chemical tankers.

The corporate trio, known as Golden Stena Weco, headquartered in Singapore, now own eight chemical tankers.

Erik Hånell, president and ceo of Stena Bulk, was quoted in a release saying: “We see this as part of the strategy of capturing market shares in Asia in particular with the long-term aim of establishing a presence, via our close partners, in new areas in this segment with the possibility of developing on other continents.”

Speaking exclusively to Maritime CEO this week, Hånell expands on plans to grow the chemical tanker fleet as well as other sectors at Stena Bulk, one of the blue chip names in shipping in Sweden.

The chemical tanker business for Stena Bulk is a relatively new one, starting with Golden Agri, the world’s second largest palm oil plantation company, in 2011. More chemical tanker tonnage is still on the cards, Hånell says. “We have a strong belief in this sector and would look at more tonnage,” he says, adding: “This is the sector where we will probably grow most in the years ahead in percentage terms.” The plan is to grow with Golden Agri.

Hånell has plans to invest in more than just chemical tankers. In LNG, Stena Bulk’s biggest investment, with three ships currently out on long term charters, there’s plans afoot to add more tonnage. Stena Bulk has been repeatedly linked with on and off LNG orders. Under Hånell, however, no orders for ships are placed speculatively. “We invest together with contracts,” he stresses.

The three ships were fixed in 2010 and 2011 at decent rates before the sector crashed. These ships will be open again in 2015 and 2016 and Hånell is confident the market will have picked up by then. “I have a quite strong belief for 2016 and going forward,” Hånell says, backing up this feeling with a hint of further LNG ships to come to the fleet. “For the right conditions we will invest in more of this tonnage,” he says.

Other sectors Stena Bulk is involved in include suezmaxes and MR product tankers. On the former, Hånell says the spike in the suezmax market was unexpected, but could well be the start of a positive trend. Nevertheless, he is honest when admitting suezmaxes are still “far away” from breakeven levels in terms of earning levels for investment levels on the ships. “Maybe 2015 suezmaxes might get to black but 2014 will still be a tough year.”

As far as the MR sector is concerned, Hånell admits it has been hyped up a lot in the last 18 months with a lot of new orders. Still, he reckons:  “The fundamentals for ordering have been there with an okay market where you can at least break even on an investment.”

Future demand in seaborne products transportation looks like strong growth, he says. Once again, Hånell’s down to earth assessments are refreshing, in a segment awash with too much hype. Analysts are predicting rates of $22,000 to $23,000 this year for MR tankers, he relates, something he views as unrealistic. Last year, rates for MR tankers stood at around $15,500. “This year might be $1,000 more,” he says.

Hånell became president and ceo of Stena Bulk in December, 2012. He worked at sea for 10 years and joined Stena Bulk 15 years ago.

NEED TO KNOW:  Stena Bulk

Part of Sweden’s Stena Group, Stena Bulk, founded in 1982, has 92 tankers (product, chemical and suezmaxes) and three LNG carriers. Famous for innovative tanker designs such as the Stena E-MAXair.

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