Thoresen Thai Agencies Pcl plans to almost double its dry-bulk shipping fleet in three years as a focus on Europe-U.S. cargos shields it from tumbling rates for hauling commodities to China.
The fleet will climb to as many as 30 vessels from 16 by September 2015, David Ames, executive vice president for shipping operations, said by phone on Aug. 15. The company, Thailand’s second-biggest dry-bulk shipping operator, plans to buy new and used vessels as part of the expansion program.
Thoresen Thai’s shipping operations were profitable in the quarter ended June because of demand to steel pipes, nickel ore and other products across the North Atlantic, where rates are about 13 percent higher than the global average, Ames said. The company also recently reorganized its fleet so it had younger handysize and supramax bulk ships to help reduce costs and weather a slump in worldwide freight rates.
“We’re going to continue to operate in our niche market and we’ll continue to attract cargos that not everyone can carry,” Ames said. “We’re not going to suddenly become a capesize operator out of Australia or Brazil and into China.”
Thoresen Thai, which deploys about half its fleet in the North Atlantic, was unchanged at 15.4 baht at close of trading in Bangkok. The company has fallen 22 percent this year, compared with a 19 percent gain for the benchmark SET index.
Commodity-shipping rates have tumbled globally because of excess capacity. The Baltic Handysize Index has dropped 12 percent this year, while the Baltic Capesize Index has slumped 66 percent and the Baltic Dry Index has dropped 58 percent.
“We knew that tough times were ahead and the market was not going to be merciful as we came into 2011 and 2012,” Ames said. “Smaller sizes are more resilient against the massive swings in freight rates.”
Bulk-shipping capacity will continue to exceed demand globally this year, unless there is an extraordinary amount of scrapping and delays in delivery of new ships, Ames said.
The global orderbook for bulk ships is about 24 percent the size of the existing fleet, the highest for any vessel type, according to Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker.
Thoresen Thai’s shipping operations posted earnings before interest and tax of 41 million baht ($1.3 million) in the quarter ended June 30, compared with a loss of 17 million baht a year earlier, according to a statement. The company reported a net loss of 2.35 billion baht because of impairment charges on its investment in a mining project.