US investment manager Easterly Asset Management has founded a new company to buy vessels, with a particular focus on chemical tankers.

Darrell Crate is CEO of Maritime Logistics Equity Partners. He is the founder of parent company Easterly Asset Management. Photo: Easterly

The Massachusetts-based operation said Maritime Logistics Equity Partners (MLEP) is aimed at taking advantage of the "enormous opportunities" in international shipping markets.

Easterly added that the chemical tanker shipping sector is projected to be a $9.5bn market by 2026.

"There is a compelling opportunity to invest in pre-owned chemical tankers, given the limited supply and growing demand for the vessels, a low future orderbook for shipping construction and the expansion of chemical trade lanes," said Darrell Crate, managing principal of Easterly and MLEP's chief executive.

"Like the oceans themselves, the opportunities are vast," he added.

MLEP revealed it has already completed its first deal, snapping up 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 report the former as sold for $11m and the sistership for $12m. The deal leaves Cido Shipping with a mixed fleet of 74 vessels, including 10 newbuildings.

Two more unnamed ships are in the process of being acquired.

Crate said the company "is actively looking to acquire more stainless-steel tonnage of all sizes aged 10 to 15 years".

MLEP has pledged to buy more tonnage before the end of the year and will raise more funds for this.

The company believes it can provide investors with an attractive level of regular, growing income as well as capital returns.

"Chemical tankers may not be glamorous, but they keep the global economy humming and investors happy with a steady stream of income,” added Crate.

MLEP said it is responding to industry trends, including a decline in the building of ships to transport palm oil, feedstock and other commodities.

Yards focused elsewhere

Following a construction boom that peaked in 2008, shipbuilders are now focused on building other tanker types and sizes, the company believes.

With increasing chemical production, tight ship supply and a lack of liquidity in the capital markets for new tankers, there is growing demand for such vessels, MLEP argues.

This provides "a powerful tailwind" for existing vessels," said Crate, who founded Easterly in 2009, recruiting other experienced asset management professionals.

The MLEP fleet will be employed in Womar Logistics pools.

Womar CEO Hans Van der Zijde said: "We welcome the opportunity to work with MLEP and to build a long-lasting commercial asset management relationship."

"Since September 2019, we have been working closely with US private equity investors and feel Womar has a unique product offering for institutional investors becoming shipowners."

Womar was previously linked by brokers to the purchase of the two Cido ships.

In April, Singapore's Womar teamed up with Chembulk to the size of its pooled fleet to 40 ships.

These are spread across 12 separate owners.

The company has said it wants to expand its network in the US.