Italcementi, a publicly listed cement maker, is poised to enter the handymax bulker market as an owner. It wants to acquire at least one vessel to serve its Atlantic business carrying cement and petcoke between the Mediterranean and the US. The Bergamo-based manufacturer is making the move because of surging bulk-shipping rates that have pushed up costs and limited its options with respect to the charter of ships.
Its decision to acquire handymaxes comes after taking delivery in April of the 5500dwt Turbocem (built 1992), a self-unloading bulker owned by Medcem, a joint venture between Italcementi and Naples-based ship operator Romeo Shipping.
The Turbocem was converted in Dutch shipyard Van Aalst for around EUR 6.5m ($8.4m). The Medcem partnership consolidates Italcementi’s relationship with the Romeo group, headed by Giovanni Romeo. It already operates as a logistic partner for Italcementi in the shipping of cement and other raw materials.
Italcementi will use the Turbocem mainly in the Mediterranean, where it has plants in several countries, including Egypt and Bulgaria on the Black Sea. The ship will guarantee coverage of 10% to 15% of the Italcementi total traffic in the Mediterranean, amounting to an annual total of around 150,000t of cement.
The deal is designed to enable the cement producer to "learn the shipowning trade", says Italcementi spokesman Franceso Galimberti. He added: "We had possibilities with other shipowners but the choice was to go with [Romeo]." Italcementi also notes the move into shipowning will provide it with its own resources to ensure continuity of cement delivery to its maritime terminals in the Mediterranean. It was decided upon in light of the sharp increase in sea-freight costs since 2003, which it expects will continue in the future.