Singapore: One of bulk shipping’s more conservative players has a strong balance sheet and is ready to take advantage of cheap prices both for newbuilds and second hand ships. In a rare interview Stephen Fordham, executive chairman of Masterbulk, stressed, “We will invest, however, only when we think the time is right.”
Masterbulk, which is part of the Westfal-Larsen group, avoided ordering ships at the height of the newbuild market and sits on a current fleet of 23 owned open-hatch vessels with no ships on order.
The company has recently established new trades in the Pacific between British Columbia/US West Coast and Asia as well as between Brazil and Asia, the latter of which Fordham described as “a tradelane of increasing importance for wood pulp exports”, which remains the company’s largest commodity cargo. He said the growth of biofuel as a renewable substitute for coal presents increasing opportunities to broaden Masterbulk’s cargo base.
On the markets, Fordham is not optimistic. “I think that we may well be in the midst of a significant structural shift in our shipping markets,” he said, adding, “Times will continue to be tough for everyone, and fatal for those who have overextended.”
He concluded: “When also having to factor in the tonnage overcapacity, I would not want to predict when the dry bulk markets will recover to sustainable levels, but fear that it may be some years ahead of us.” [21/09/12]