Founded by Norway’s Westfal-Larsen in 1995 Masterbulk has built up a fleet of 20 supramax open hatch gantry crane/jib crane vessels specialising in the forestry trades.
Last October saw the setting up of the Saga Welco pool, a 50 – 50 joint venture between Masterbulk and Saga Ship Holding, combining the fleets of the two companies with 52 vessels and the world’s largest fleet of open hatch gantry ships. The entire global fleet of such vessels is only around 130.
Speaking to Seatrade Global about Masterbulk’s 20 years in the business, Fisher picks the setting up of the pool as the highlight. “The establishment of Saga Welco is by far the most exciting new development for the company. Combining the excellence of the former Saga Forest Carriers and Westfal-Larsen Shipping organisations into a larger, more geographically diverse operation, the new constellation has the ability to serve our existing customers with increased trade routes and frequency, with the largest fleet of open hatch gantry crane tonnage in the market,” he said.
In what have been difficult times for the dry bulk shipping industry the pool is seen as giving the scale needed to cope with market and demands such as new regulations.
Fisher commented: “For shipping companies operating in the current environment of slower global trade, greatly increased capacity, lower charter rates, and increasing costs, and industry regulation, consolidation is a necessary next-step.
“The formation of the Saga Welco Pool is a prudent step to achieving economies of scale and providing our clients with more frequent sailings to a greater geographical range, greater capacity, and operational savings.”
Looking at the market as a whole for open hatch gantry crane vessels the fleet is an ageing one with 26% of the vessels over 25 years old and fleet is actually set to contract in size. “A small number of new builds on order will not offset the net reduction in the gantry crane fleet size in the next couple of years, as scrapping continues,” he said.