New US company Maritime Logistics Equity Partners (MLEP) wants to build up a fleet of more than 20 chemical tankers.

The operation, launched by Easterly Asset Management, has raised $100m already and expects more to come from its US investors.

MLEP revealed its entry into shipping this month with the acquisition of two stainless-steel chemical tankers — the 20,000-dwt Easterly Beech Galaxy (built 2007) and the Easterly Lime Galaxy (built 2008) — from South Korea's Cido Shipping.

Brokers reported that these ships cost a combined $23m, and more are on the way.

"We are taking delivery of two similar-aged stainless-steel chemical tankers in the coming days," an MLEP spokeswoman told TradeWinds.

The target is "20-plus" coated and stainless-steel chemical carriers of between 20,000 dwt and 50,000 dwt.

MLEP is looking at ships of between 10 and 15 years of age.

The spokeswoman said the company is backed by US-based private investors, family offices and private equity groups.

Continued support

"We expect to have continued support from these groups as we continue to expand," she said.

The $100m war chest constitutes its first fund for stainless-steel chemical tankers.

"We expect to see continued capital growth in subsequent funds and expand into larger asset classes," she said.

MLEP is building its internal maritime team.

For the moment, it is relying on market guidance from its partner at Singapore manager Womar Logistics, which will operate the MLEP ships in its pools.

Many of MLEP's investors have been in the shipping markets previously, providing debt and equity.

As a result, the company believes there is a good amount of maritime knowledge within MLEP.

For the moment, it appears focused on a single vessel sector.

"We are currently focused on the chemical tankers as MLEP has core competency here," the spokeswoman said.

"However ... how shipping markets perform and what opportunities present themselves will determine the asset classes we focus on."

MLEP is run by chief executive Darrell Crate, who is also managing principal of Massachusetts' Easterly Asset, an asset manager that focuses on originating, underwriting and structuring "discrete, cash flow-based investment products".

Easterly Asset has said the chemical tanker sector is projected to be a $9.5bn market by 2026.