When a US-based private equity start-up needed financing to help acquire two chemical carriers in September, the opportunity ­created a milestone for Australian lender Macquarie.

Maritime Logistics Equity Partners (MLEP)'s buy of two chemical carriers from South Korea's Cido Shipping was not the biggest of deals, but it pushed Macquarie's ship lending portfolio past the $1bn mark.

Although not a huge sum compared with some of the traditional ship-finance goliaths, it was a ­significant step for a newcomer that spied a business opportunity in 2017.