Greek bulk shipping operator Ceres Hellenic said
on Thursday it had agreed to merge its Capesize and Panamax fleets with those of Italy
's Coeclerici, creating one of the world's largest bulk carrier fleets
The ships will be operated by a new joint venture between the two private companies, Coeclerici Ceres Bulk Carriers (CCBC), which brokers said would be among the top six players in the transport of coal, grain and iron ore.
The two fleets have been working alongside each other for 18 months under a pooling alliance, Coeclerici Transport, in which Coeclerici handled commercial management and Ceres dealt with operations, said a Ceres spokesman.
Consolidation is widely seen as the only hope for maintaining earnings in the bulk shipping sector in the face of massive future oversupply of ships.
The Panamax fleet is expected to swell by more than 10 percent this year, while ton-mile demand growth is estimated at only 1.5 percent.
CCBC will be 66 percent owned by Coeclerici and 34 percent owned by DryLog, an investment vehicle for the Livanos family which controls Ceres Hellenic.
CCBC's 19 ships will have total capacity of 2.3 million tons and will continue to operate within the Coeclerici Transport pool of 85 ships, of over 10 million ton capacity.