Canada’s CSL Group has revealed that its joint venture with German owner Hans-Jurgen Hartmann has exercised an option for a second newbuilding at Chengxi Shipyard.

CSL chief executive Louis Martel disclosed the new business line during an interview with TradeWinds in Montreal as he discussed the virtues and limitations of being the world’s largest owner and operator of self-­unloading bulkers.

“We’re always looking for growth, but we’re very realistic,” he said. “You’re not going to double the amount of self-loaders in the world because, beyond certain markets, it just doesn’t make sense to use them.”

With that said, CSL has found a suitable tie-up with Hartmann’s aggregates trading group Mibau Stema, an offshoot of the German shipowner’s Denmark-­based Stema Shipping.

The companies jointly have two newbuildings on order at Chengxi, Martel said.

CSL has operates four self-­unloaders to Stema’s five in the region, but they are not within the joint venture.

The 40,000-dwt newbuildings are due for delivery in July 2020 and June 2021 for the account of Mibau Stema Shipping.

TradeWinds reported in May 2018 that CSL had returned to the Chinese yard for the first time in six years with an order for one firm 40,000-dwt bulker plus an option. The company announced its joint venture with Mibau ­Stema in the same month.

The Mibau Stema group bills ­itself as one of Northern Europe’s largest heavy-construction materials suppliers, carrying more than 10m tonnes per year from quarries in Norway to 40 terminals along the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

It is the sort of niche market ­opportunity CSL keeps on the ­radar as it confronts the reality of limited growth prospects in its traditional core trade in the Great Lakes.

“The Great Lakes trade is a bit of a finite pie. It can go up or down 10% but it’s not like it’s going to double,” Martel said.

With that in mind, CSL has ­developed new markets in the Americas, Australia and Europe through the years.

In another joint venture, it took a 50% stake last year in ­Eureka Shipping, a cement-shipping opera­tion run by Cyprus’ SMT Shipping Group.

The venture sought to combine the expertise, resources and technologies of CSL and SMT to expand services to customers in the seaborne cement powder and fly ash transport markets. CSL’s Australian cement shipping business was not included in the pact.

“It involves nine smaller ships in Northern Europe,” Martel said. “It’s a bit of a diversification for us, ­despite the business we operate in Australia. We see the ­cement-shipping sector as complementary. It involves a type of self-unloader, and a lot of the ­customers are the same as we serve in our core business.”

CSL owns 44 vessels, including self-unloaders, geared bulk carriers and transshipment units.