Norway's Klaveness Combination Carriers (KCC) has revealed it is moving into the lithium concentrate trade as demand for batteries rises.

The company's 82,000-dwt combination carrier Barramundi (built 2019) completed its second lifting of the hard-rock cargo, also known as spodumene concentrate, in Western Australia at the end of March.

The Cleanbu vessel had loaded the initial cargo in February, the shipowner said.

Spodumene is used in electrical car batteries, which KCC sees as a growth industry.

The shipments have gone to China. There, the concentrate, which has a high lithium content, is being converted to lithium hydroxide.

The shipowner is now targeting a back-haul voyage carrying caustic soda into Australia for new lithium hydroxide plants coming on stream there in the coming years, making full use of the versatile ships, which can carry wet and dry cargoes.

"KCC, being the market leader for transportation of caustic soda to Australia, is well positioned to provide the growing Australian lithium hydroxide industry with cost competitive low carbon shipping services for its import of caustic soda," the company added.

Carbon emissions reduced

The lack of ballast trips means the vessels will emit 30% less CO2 than conventional tankers and bulkers.

KCC said in March it has sworn off contracting new ships unless they can eventually achieve zero emissions.

Chief executive Engebret Dahm added on a company webinar: "Decarbonisation is the big challenge of the century for the shipping industry. To be sustainable, you also have to be profitable."

KCC will be recycling some of its older ships this decade, he explained.