Heavy lift in high seas

Two years ago private equity funds eyed interesting investment opportunities in specialised heavy lift carriers. But this did not turn out to be a highly lucrative business. Far from it.

Owners and operators of custom-designed ships that can handle large and heavy structures – from elements for containerterminals, parts of factories, to offshore windmills – and can transport these structures around the world, looked like suitable acquisition objects for equity funds and other shipping investors a few years ago. But development during this last year among the small community of global heavy lift companies does not confirm that the industry, in spite of two significant mergers, constitute a lucrative investment right now or in the short term.

“The market continues to be challenging but we see signs of supply contraction on selected trades and rates moving up by 30-35 percent. Still to a large extent, right now the industry is in a state where it doesn’t need to be; however, we expect above positive dynamics to gain momentum in the medium term future,” says Svend Andersen, CEO of German BBC Chartering, which has a fleet constantly hovering around 140-160 multipurpose and heavy lift ships, far surpassing its closest competitors, and is thus considered the industry’s global market leader. The fleet has been built up since 1997, primarily relying on ships from the company’s owner, Briese Schiffahrt.

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