Masterbulk Eyes Opportunities As Star Splits

Masterbulk,
the forestry shipping specialist owned by the Westfal-Larsen family, is eyeing
opportunities in the wider dry bulk markets as longstanding Norwegian
joint-venture Star Shipping splits.
    Star
Shipping, founded in 1961 and owned jointly by Masterbulk and Grieg Group, has
agreed to split into two separate companies.
    Star
Shipping consists of a fleet of 40 open hatch vessels and twenty handymax
bulkers. The open hatch division will be divided geographically between the two
owners, according to established sailing routes. Grieg will take over the
conventional bulk division.
    Masterbulk
will take over Star’s main office location and will continue the co-operation
in Bergen by
marketing its 19 open hatch ships and three ships currently under construction,
under the name of Westfal-Larsen Shipping.
    The Grieg
Group will retain the Star Shipping name within its group of businesses, its
share of the open hatch fleet, the handymax bulk fleet and the terminal in British Columbia.
    Masterbulk
and Greig said that the decision to split the company stemmed from diverging
views on future strategy.
    Ragnar
Nielsen, president of Singapore-based Masterbulk, told Lloyd’s List that views
differed on whether to concentrate solely on the industrial shipping business
as they have in the past, or to become a more market orientated company.
    The
difference over future direction is understood to have brewed for a number of
years, and current high dry bulk markets have provided an opportunity for the
two parties to formally split the Star Shipping joint venture.
    Grieg chief
executive Elizabeth Grieg said:
    “It has
been 45 years of good business for Star, but the past years have been more
difficult with the partnerships as we have had differences in directions. Three
years ago it would have been wrong to divide the company, and that is why we
had an ongoing dispute, but the way the market has developed has made the
division much easier now and creates two strong starting points for the new
companies”.
    Masterbulk,
which primarily owns and operates open hatch, geared, handymax drybulk carriers
was the party keen to take a more market-orientated approach to business, while
maintaining its core industrial shipping.
    “Industrial
shipping is always interesting”, Mr Nielsen said. But he also noted: “As we
follow the shipping market so closely, we realise you can make much more money.
There is an opportunity within the trading patterns we have”.
    He said
that the forestry trades would be the backbone of the business, with the
company having strong links in the trades from Indonesia
to Europe.
    The company
now will though look to utilise the periods when the vessels are free to
participate in the wider shipping market, and Mr Nielsen said that there would
be a greater mix to their business in the future.
    Greig Group
has a total of 23 open hatch vessels, with four more due for delivery in 2009. Its
part of Star Shipping will be brought under the umbrella of the Greig Group.
    Approved International Shipping Enterprise Scheme.    It is not
thought that the split up will create any redundancies with either of the
companies.

 

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