Brave turns acquisition firepower to product tankers with MR duo

Product tankers stay in S&P limelight, giving Vafias a fresh asset play opportunity and making life easier for liquidators of the former Xihe Group fleet.
Having expanded with a dozen bulkers and LPG ships earlier this year, Greece’s Brave Maritime has turned its buying focus to product tankers, sensing that this corner of the market has better days ahead.
Ship management sources in Athens identify the Vafias family’s private company as the buyer of the 46,000-dwt Justice Express (built 2011). TradeWinds reported earlier this month that unidentified interests bought the Japanese-held vessel.
Brave is now emerging as new owner of the Shin Kurushima Dockyard-built ship in a $17.1m deal arranged by London-based brokerage Hull Search International.
The Greek company, however, did not stop there and swooped on one additional product carrier from the former fleet of the Xihe Group and its affiliate Ocean Tankers
In a deal arranged by Clarksons, Brave spent a net $8.2m to buy the 50,300-dwt Ocean Mars (built 2009), a ship sold as part of ongoing efforts to liquidate the Xihe fleet.
The two transactions bring the number of secondhand ships and newbuildings acquired by Brave Maritime to 14 so far this year.
Company owner Nikolaos Vafias’ buying appetite had so far focused on mid-sized LPG newbuildings and secondhand bulker handysizes.
Rising values have vindicated the experienced owner’s handysize investment. His turn to product tankers suggests the Greek player feels that the next good deals to be had are in this type of ship.
“They feel that this market has already been through its roughest patch already,” said one source familiar with the Vafias group’s thinking.
The next big thing
Other market participants seem to agree. Brave Maritime bought the Justice Express against tough opposition after waiving inspection of the vessel.
MR product tankers have been the most frequently traded type of ship in an otherwise uninspiring sale-and-purchase market for oil carriers.
That is largely due to the fact that MR freight rates have escaped much of the slump seen in the bigger tanker sizes.
Several watchers see recovery around the corner. Clarksons Platou Securities said on 27 September that product tanker owners can expect a “big winter rally” and a strong jump in earnings potential as demand recovers from pandemic setbacks.
The Norwegian investment bank predicted a significant profit rise from spot deals in the coming months, mirroring better results from crude tankers.
Sellers of the Ocean Tankers fleet benefitted from that improved sentiment to find buyers for their product tankers.
Unidentified Chinese interests are said to have spent $18.4m to buy a smaller but much younger MR, the 34,700-dwt MR Ocean Clover (built 2019).
Brokers in Europe and the US also reported that the 108,900-dwt Ocean Vela (built 2009) has been sold for $17.3m. Several of them identified Greece’s Avin International as the buyer.
Managers at the Athens-based company did not respond to a request for comment. The Vardinoyannis family-led company, however, has been a very busy player on the secondhand market, both as a seller and as a buyer.
At the beginning of the year, the company bought three MRs and one aframax while ordering a pair of ammonia fuel-ready suezmaxes at New Times Shipbuilding.
Source: Tradewinds

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