Dry CargoMaritime CEO

Pola Maritime: Targeting new handysizes

Antwerp: Pola Maritime is ready to order more handysizes, so long as prices for newbuilds drop a bit.

Carlo Cepollina is the general manager of Pola Maris, a company based in Antwerp which commercially represents Pola Maritime, a Russian owned private company established in 2006 in Cyprus as an entity backed by experienced shareholding interests in the dry bulk shipping industry.

“As soon as the dry bulk market recovers,” Cepollina says, “and Chinese shipyards return to reasonable prices, our plan is to order other new buildings in order to reach a fleet of 20 owned handysize bulk carriers. After that, we will focus on the second step of the business strategy based on handymax and panamax ships”.

The Russian shareholding interests behind Pola Maritime own many other ships in different sectors, including barges, tankers and fishing vessels.

“Pola’s plans are to expand the fleet with more long term time chartered-in tonnage and to acquire further tonnage either via S&P deals or strategic partnerships,” says Cepollina, explaining that at the moment the company operates some 20 ships, mainly 37,000 dwt handysizes, in a mix of owned and chartered tonnage. It is also now branching out into panamaxes as well. All of the vessels owned by Pola Maritime are open hatch/boxed shaped and ice class able to take on challenging routes, cargoes and contracts as well as being spot minded. Pola Maritime has been steadily increasing its presence in the Atlantic basin since 2011.

The Pola Maris general manager says fleet activity is mainly focused on transatlantic trades from the Baltic Sea to the east coast of the US and South America transporting steel, coal, grains, fertilizers, minerals cargoes and soybean.

Last year, Pola ships carried almost 3m tons of cargo, generating a turnover of about $90m thanks to stable business relationships with some shippers from Eastern Europe such as Severstal Steel, but also with other major players such as Eurochem, Sodrugestvo Trading, BPC, Uralkaliy, Rio Tinto, Glencore, Rusal, Nidera/Transgrain, Cargill, Bunge and Noble. Its clients are seeking a unique competency namely shallow draft ice class handysize designs, that can operate from the coldest winters in Russia to the shallowest river ports in South America.

Looking at the future of the dry bulk market, Cepollina prefers not to make forecasts since “all the previsions made by many experts have been denied. With the current market fluctuation it is really hard to predict what will happen but Pola Maritime just requires a slight upward correction in freight rates to operate in profit.”

The fleet, he says, has been acquired under low cyclical prices, giving the company what an “excellent” risk management position.

As soon as the market will give some sign of recovery, Pola Maritime is ready for a next stage of investments. In the last few months the company was already negotiating new orders with Chinese shipbuilders but they stopped the process as the collapse of the dry bulk segment occurred and yet newbuild prices remained obstinately high.

“When freight rates will soar and Chinese shipyards will return to quote handysize newbuildings at reasonable prices – below $20m – we are interested and ready to sign new contracts for building handysize bulk carriers. We are not in a hurry,” says Cepollina.

Pola Maritime has access to several capital providers from Russia and Asia. Last year Gazprombank started to finance Pola with a non-revolving credit line of $91.2m for the construction of six bulk carriers – the Seahorse 375 series – built by leading China’s Qingshan Shipyard. Gazprombank mediated the finance project with recourse to the existing business and by attracting funding from the Export-Import Bank of China. Each vessel was approved for a direct long-term financing of up to 12 years.

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