China’s rapacious demand for raw materials is seeing ever-longer dry bulk journeys crisscrossing the globe. No capesize trip is longer these days than from Guinea in West Africa to the People’s Republic. Singapore-based firm Winning is making the running in this niche trade. The Chinese-backed company has mining and shipping interests, and is very much in charge of its entire supply chain.
The Winning current fleet is in flux. There’s two supramaxes, one post-panamax, 15 capesizes (of which four are set to be scrapped) while two new newcastlemaxes will deliver later this year. The company also has a couple of transhippers, four floating cranes, 12 tugs and eight barges.
Bosco Lau Chi Wah (pictured), vice president and CEO of Winning Logistics Services, explains how the company focuses on taking bauxite from West Africa to China and then project/general cargoes from China back to West Africa.
“This two-way trade route will contribute the world’s longest tonne-miles capesize haul,” Lau says.
The group’s in-house bauxite from its Guinea mine will increase production, and export, from the current capacity of 10m tonnes a year to 30m tonnes a year within the next two years. “This translates to full employment of 40 capesize vessels for one way trade, and the required capacity will be doubled if every ship is employed in two-way trade,” Lau says.
Winning is now in the market for more secondhand capes, while it is also in discussions with a number of Japanese trading houses to take on some long-term charters.
More transhipment equipment – tugs, barges, cranes, etc – will also be bought, while more ambitiously – and in keeping with Winning’s desire to be in charge of its own supply chain – a shipyard will be built in Guinea. Moreover, in a bid to get the crew it requires in the West African nation, Winning is establishing a maritime school in Guinea.
Besides its interests in Africa, Winning also has a joint venture alumina refinery in Indonesia, for which a number of barges and transhippers are being bought.
On the markets, Lau reckons dry bulk freight rates will bottom out towards the end of this year. However, they’re unlikely to significantly pick up anytime soon, which worries Lau from a recruitment point of view.
“When the market does recover eventually we need to be in a position with sufficient cash flow to grab opportunities,” Lau concludes.