Cape prices climb

Cargill’s investment arm has been linked to the acquisition of a capesize bulker controlled by Sinokor Merchant Marine of South Korea.

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According to George R Schwarz, who published a research paper about this type of vessel while enrolled in the Naval Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, caravels boasted gently sloping bows, stern castles and masts rigged with triangular lateen sails.


On Friday nearly half-a-dozen shipbrokers identified CarVal Investors as the buyer of the 178,900-dwt Silver Surfer (built 2013).

Compass Maritime Services and a number of other firms claim the ship fetched $53.5m, which represents a discount of nearly $2m when compared to what the portal believes the unit is worth in today’s market.

While it appears CarVal caught a break observers still believe the price tag tied to this transaction serves as further evidence that asset values in the capesize segment are on the rise.

The same contacts quick to point out that a Greek buyer paid roughly $51m to purchase the 180,000-dwt Blue Cho Oyu (built 2011) from South Korean interests just last week.

“Many brokerages are valuing five-year-old capes at $47m but these transactions suggest that this assessment is far too low," one source added. "If more capes changes hands in the coming weeks I wouldn’t be surprised to see the average for a five-year-old cape top $50m.”

Revelations about the Silver Surfer and speculation surrounding asset prices came on the tail-end of a week in which rates for tonnage trading in the spot market started to gain traction.

On Friday freight rates for capes topped $17,980, which is nearly 4% higher than yesterday’s average and well above levels seen three days ago, according to a leading industry forecaster.

While rates have been relatively low in recent weeks many forecasters believe capesize valuations have managed to hold steady because it is widely believed the market is going to rebound in the coming quarters.

Attempts to reach CarVal for comment were not immediately successful at the time of writing Friday night but sale-and-purchase brokers are quick to point out that the firm and its parent have been linked to a number of cape plays in the recent past that turned out to be untrue.

CarVal has been in business for over 20 years and describes itself as an “independent subsidiary” of Cargill, the Minnesota-based commodities giant that is one of the most active charterers of bulkers and tankers in the world but also oversees owned tonnage as well.

The company keeps a low-profile but its infatuation with shipping isn’t a secret. There’s a prominent picture of a Geden bulker on its webpage, which may not come as a surprise since it is widely believed to have acquired at least four of the Turkish operator’s ships over the last two years.

You will also find an image of the The Nina, a full-size replica of the caravel ship sailed by Columbus in 1492. A caption reads: “Like the caravel ship CarVal Investors is known for speed, agility, strength and dependability, as well as its ability to think globally and execute locally.”