US shipowner Safesea Group is aiming to take a major stake in Sri Lanka’s state-controlled Ceylon Shipping Corp (CSC).

The Economic Times cited sources as saying the tanker and bulker company wants to set up a joint venture to buy a 40% holding in the Colombo-based dry cargo player.

Safesea has suggested running CSC on a public-private partnership model.

Sources said the US group and the Sri Lankan government would own 40%, with the other 20% being hived off to public investors.

No financial details have been revealed, and talks are said to be in the preliminary stages.

Safesea confirmed it had made an investment proposal to CSC.

CSC chairman WS Weeraman said: “We have received Safesea’s proposal. It is in the interest of the company. But we will have to approach the relevant ministry for taking it forward.”

The Sri Lankan shipowner was set up in 1971 and has been a key player in the transportation of goods from Sri Lanka.

Sources said the company is seen as an attractive target because it can offer feeder services and port-related logistics to global shipping lines.

But they believe investment is needed to aid cash flow.

VesselsValue rates CSC’s two ultramax bulkers built in 2016 as worth $51m combined.

Clarksons also lists an elderly MPP in the fleet, as well as two ferries.

Safesea has so far been stymied in its bid to take control of India’s state-owned Shipping Corp of India.

It is yet to submit a bid for the company because the government of India indefinitely extended an 18 January for offers at the start of the year.

The privatisation is likely to be further delayed by uncertainties caused by the Ukraine war.

“Globally, markets are facing [the] impact of the crisis. I don t think this is the right opportune moment,” SCI chairwoman and managing director Harjeet Kaur Joshi has said.

The other bidders for SCI are a consortium comprising UK-based owner Ravi Mehrotra’s Foresight Group and vessel cash buyer Global Marketing Systems (GMS), and domestic conglomerate Megha Engineering & Infrastructure.

Safesea is listed as owning a supramax and two handy tankers.