ContainersDry CargoEurope

Star Bulk rules itself out of race to ship containers on bulkers

Petros Pappas-led Star Bulk has ruled itself out of the race to ship containers on bulk carriers.

Container analysts at Alphaliner had reported this week: “Starbulk of Greece has fixed one of its 175,000 dwt ‘Capesize’ bulk carriers to carry a total of about 1,400 teu, including 200 laden boxes and 1,200 empties repositioned from Europe to China.”

A spokesperson for the New York-listed dry bulk owner has denied that any ships have been repurposed to carry containers.

Brokers Braemar ACM suggested this week that the cape in question making container history is in fact in the Star Bulk pool.

“A capesize in the Starbulk pool has received class permission to load containers on deck moving forward,” a container briefing from Braemar ACM stated with broking sources suggesting the actual ship belongs to another European owner in the pool.

What is clear, however, is that a raft of dry bulk owners are actively moderating stowage plans to accommodate high paying boxes – with handy and supra owners contacted by Splash in recent weeks readying to make their container entry.

“The advantage of a geared handy over a cape is that it can get to the bottom of the spoke, rather than relying on calling at hubs,” one European dry bulk shipowner told Splash today while putting the finishing touches to his plans to ship containers.

A host of P&I Clubs have issued guidance in recent weeks to dry bulk owners thinking of shipping containers.

North P&I advised, “Owners should first liaise with underwriters, and the vessel’s classification society and Flag State to seek their guidance and advice as to what modifications, if any, would be required to comply with their requirements.”

The club added: “It’s unusual for a bulk carrier to be fitted out with suitable fittings, equipment and lashings to fulfil this obligation without modification and strengthening of cargo securing arrangements. Additional equipment may be required as well as a need to perform additional strength and stability assessments. Crew capabilities should be also assessed.”

The UK P&I Club recently informed clients to be aware of stowage rules if accepting containers onboard bulk carriers.

Moreover, the club has warned that the existing strength calculations for deck and hatch covers on modern bulk carriers usually only allow for so-called green sea loads instead of cargo weight. However, the allowable load density can be increased by reinforcements, subject to approval by the vessel’s class. Similarly, any tank top-loading needs to be specially considered and approved.

On top of that, bulk carrier owners eager to accept some high paying containers, will need to think about updated stability analysis, while with so many fires emanating from containers these days, the insurer has advised owners to buy additional firefighting equipment.

The dearth of cellular container tonnage in the charter market has also forced many companies to tap into the multipurpose (MPP) and open hatch bulk carrier markets to cover their needs this year, sending MPP rates into record territory.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. “A capesize in the Starbulk pool has received class permission to load containers on deck moving forward,”
    Well there is a superflous statement if ever there was one……Did they expect the vessel to be moving backwards???????

  2. Star Bulk probably realises the long term problems that would inevitably result from damage to coatings and steelwork. On aging vessel it may be worth the risk but not on newer ones.

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