Greece's Costamare reportedly made its first expansion move since July, as some buyers sense an opportunity to rejoin the secondhand market amid wobbly bulker prices.

The US-listed containership company, which went on an acquisition spree of 37 bulkers between May and July, is now linked by Athens-based brokers to a purchase of the 63,800-dwt sisterships Soho Merchant and Soho Trader (both built 2015).

Depending on which broker reports the deal, the ships are said to have cost between $46m and $50.5m in total.

Costamare declined to comment on the information, in line with standard policy not to discuss commercial matters outside official stock exchange filings and announcements.

A deal at such price levels constitutes "clear evidence" of "present market tendency of notable reduction in asset values from previous last-done deals", Athens-based Xclusiv Shipbrokers said in a report on 15 November.

TradeWinds already reported on 11 November how some prospective deals were called off after a drop in freight rates shook investor confidence.

Online shipping data banks are listing the Soho Merchant and Soho Trader under the control of Bermuda-based Mid-Atlantic Bulk Carriers and Raven Capital, a New York-based alternative investment manager.

Managers at both companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A sale of the two ships would cut Mid-Atlantic Raven's fleet by half, leaving it with the sisterships Soho Mandate and Soho Principal, both built in 2016.

Grieg ships in play?

Some brokers believe Costamare is involved in a separate ultramax deal as well, for up to two vessels in the process of being sold by Grieg Maritime Group.

The Bergen-based company has reportedly agreed to dispose of the 63,500-dwt Star Damon and Star Crios (both built 2012).

Brokers in the US, London and Athens said the duo has gone to Greek buyers for between $22m and $23m each. Both ships are said to have lucrative time charters attached expiring in spring next year.

Contacted by TradeWinds on the reported sale, a Grieg spokesperson told TradeWinds: "The vessels you enquire about remain our property."

Costamare has already bought another two vessels sold by Grieg earlier this year — the 58,000-dwt supramax Eracle (ex-Star Eracle, built 2012) and its 58,000-dwt sistership Athena (ex-Star Athena, built 2012), as TradeWinds has reported.

That duo used to be in the fleet of GriegMaas, a joint venture set up by Grieg Star and Amsterdam-based Maas Capital in January 2019. The venture, however, sold off its last ships earlier this year and has effectively ceased operation.

Still interest out there

Despite a dent in bulker market confidence, buying interest remains, according to market watchers.

"For those… still positioning themselves, the slowdown in asset appreciation during the past couple of weeks presents itself as a window of opportunity that has unexpectedly opened halfway through the fourth quarter," said Seaborne Shipbrokers in a weekly market note on 15 November.

This seems to be confirmed by yet another reported deal, in which Bermuda-based Nautical Bulkers is said to have fetched about $28.5m from Greek buyers for the 63,600-dwt Nautical Alice (built 2016).

The Chinese-built ship passed its special survey last month and is equipped with a scrubber.