Minerva set on Sasebo kamsarmax newbuilds

Andreas Martinos company among those believed to have made a dry bulk drive in Japan

Andreas Martinos-led Minerva Marine is the latest Greek shipping company to emerge with dry bulk orders in Japan booked at a time when prices for such ships were hovering just above their lowest level in 14 years.

Athens-based market sources have said that Minerva is behind an order for two 85,000-dwt kamsarmaxes at Sasebo Heavy Industries. The newbuildings are listed as Hull Nos S856 and S857 with delivery in July and August 2019, respectively.

Minerva did not respond to a request for comment by TradeWinds' press time.

Minerva was founded by Martinos in 1996, as primarily an operator of tankers, of which the company is currently boasting 64 units on the water — mostly aframaxes and MR product tankers.

However, Martinos also has quietly built up a presence in bulkers. Minerva currently manages five capesizes. It ordered them at China's Shanghai Jiangnan Changxing Shipbuilding between 2008 and 2014.

If the latest order in Japan for the 85,000-dwt pair is confirmed, it would mean Minerva chose a good time to contract fresh tonnage.

Market sources say the ships were inked back in May 2017. At the time, Clarksons’ average newbuilding prices for ships with a carrying capacity of around 80,000 dwt stood near their lowest levels since 2003.

Meanwhile, Greek owner Z&G Halcoussis has confirmed an order for a 85,000-dwt vessel, also at Sasebo, at about the same time when Minerva reportedly made its move.

Z&G Halcoussis revealed the order for a single unit at Sasebo back in October last year. The ship, with Hull No S858, is due for delivery in 2019. According to Halcoussis’ website, it will be a gearless single-deck bulker built to IMO Tier II standards.

Another Greek newbuilding candidate at Sasebo is Pleiades Shipping Agency.

Clarksons is listing the company as the owner of two 85,000-dwt newbuildings under construction at the Japanese yard.

The pair was reportedly ordered back in May 2017 with delivery in 2019.

Managers at Athens-based Pleiades, however, dismiss that information, saying they have placed no kamsarmax orders at Sasebo.

The Peraticos-backed operator has been a pure-play tanker player for decades. Brokers, however, have suspected the company of having entered bulkers for several months now.

The latest such talk emerged last month, when US-based brokers reported Pleiades as having ordered three 85,000-dwt newbuildings at Namura Shipbuilding for about $29m each.

However, a Pleiades manager again dismissed that information when contacted by TradeWinds at the time.

Brisk newbuilding activity in bulkers over the past few months has sparked concerns about a re-run of the period between 2013 and 2015, when excessive ordering led to a big market slump in 2016.

Some brokers, however, are sanguine that current orderbook levels are manageable. The delivery schedule for 2019 and 2020 still looks "relatively light", said Allied Shipbroking earlier this month.