After a back and forth that saw a mysterious winning bidder drop out of the race, Greece’s Brave Maritime carried away the prize in the Gibraltar admiralty sale of a handysize bulk carrier.

Brave emerged as the new owner of the 32,200-dwt Zeus IV (built 2009), which has become the 16th vessel that the private Vafias family company has bought or ordered since February 2021.

Across the five LPG newbuildings, six bulkers and five tankers it added over the period, Brave’s spending bill is estimated to be close to $450m.

In its last known expansion move reported by TradeWinds last month, Brave acquired the fully-coated, 158,900-dwt LR3 ship SKS Skeena (built 2006) for about $23.5m.

Its new acquisition, the Zeus IV, was arrested upon arrival in Gibraltar at the end of January, reportedly on behalf of crew and creditors.

A sale order for the Japanese-built ship was issued on 11 March, with an auction set for 13 April.

On the day of the sale, an unidentified bidder topped rivals with a winning offer of $17.5m, according to a source familiar with the transaction.

However, when the winning bidder failed to pay a deposit, auctioneers invited runner-up Brave to acquire the vessel for $16m.

The Supreme Court of Gibraltar sealed the deal on 9 May. The Zeus IV has already joined the Greek firm’s fleet and is now trading as Eco Angelbay.

Unclear background

The circumstances of the ship’s arrest in January remain unknown. Gibraltar papers show Cyprus-based ship financier MMA Mediterranean Maritime Advisors as claimants in the case.

According to IHS Markit, The Zeus IV was managed in recent years by Athens-based companies Monte Nero Management and then Sea Trade Marine — two outfits that may be linked to Greek owner Panagis Zissimatos.

A lawyer for Sea Trade Marine, however, contacted TradeWinds to clarify that the company stopped having any involvement with, or liability for, the ship after late November 2021 when it sold the vessel — which was then trading as Lygia — to an entity called Ocean Reef Nautical.

Sea Trade Marine has shown signs of robust health in recent months.

Between March and May, the company emerged as the new manager of the 76,600-dwt Coral Ruby (renamed Coral VI, built 2008) and the one-year-older sistership Coral Diamond (renamed Calypso V, built 2007).

The two vessels were reported sold by Japanese interests around the turn of the year, to unidentified buyers for more than $30m in total.

((This article was updated after original publication to include information from Sea Trade Marine that it had no links to the Zeus IV after November 2021))