Hong Kong: This November will mark the second anniversary of the Caravel Group, the trading and maritime conglomerate set up by former Noble vice chairman Harry Banga and his two sons. Now boasting 750 employees in 12 countries, the start up of this company has been remarkably fast.
Angad Banga, Harry’s younger son, serves as executive director, taking up the roles of COO and CFO at the group. The group has a shipmanager in the form of Fleet Management, a shipping division and a trading division.
Fleet Management now has 325 vessels under full technical management and is on track to have 400 ships soon, Banga says. Among Fleet’s credentials are its claims to be the world’s largest third party manager for chemical tankers as well as the company handed the contract to manage the largest boxships under third party management – a pair of 15,000 teu vessels belonging to Japan’s Shoei Kisen and on charter to Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line). Fleet now has 10,000 seafarers on its books.
Banga is adamant that third party management is a sector set to grow.
“In this difficult operating environment you have to save money wherever you can and third party managers with their scales of economy are cheaper. We are also starting to see the transition to the third generation of family run lines who often do not have the same loyalty to traditional ways of shipowning,” he points out.
Caravel Shipping, meanwhile, has grown exceptionally fast, now operating 80 to 90 vessels at any given time, a mix of supramaxes, panamaxes and capesizes. Banga says the aim is to get to 125 ships in the coming couple of years. In the first eight months the firm has executed 20m tons of cargo.
“We have built the business from the cargo side,” says Banga, adding: “Having access to cargo is paramount in this environment.”
On shipowning, Caravel has invested in eight boxships as one of a number of blue chip investors in the Tim Huxley-lead Mandarin Shipping. Plans are afoot to buy Caravel’s first bulkers.
“We have been looking,” Banga admits, “but we have not pulled the trigger. Investment will depend on asset prices. The ship will likely be for grain cargoes so will be either panamax or kamsarmax.”
On the trading side Caravel will do close to 20m tons of iron ore this year and 4m tons of coal.
Goals for the coming couple of years after the hectic first couple are to shore up what Caravel has built. “Plans for the future are consolidation of what we have,” Banga says, adding: “I don’t anticipate us starting any new businesses over the next two years.”