Vega Bulk Carriers has built its owned fleet up to three vessels since its shipowning debut last year and plans to make it five before the start of summer.

Dubai-based Kenneth Fjeld and Oslo-based Niklas Sindum confirmed to TradeWinds the purchase of the 35,000-dwt Seastar Empress (renamed Vega Everest, built 2011). Delivery took place around the end of April at a price that brokers have reported to be $16.3m.

The seller is UK-based Seastar Maritime, whose affiliate Norbulk managed the vessel. (See related story.)

“It was handed over in very good technical condition,” said Fjeld.

Fjeld, formerly of Vega Offshore, started Vega Bulk in 2020 and brought on Western Bulk Carriers chartering executive Sindum to head the Oslo office.

Currently, Vega Bulk has a total of 11 owned and long-term chartered vessels in its operated fleet, mostly handysizes plus a supramax and an ultramax. It runs some larger tonnage of up to kamsarmax among the ships it has in on short-term charter.

Fjeld said the company has two more purchases in its sights, both handysizes, and expects to close those deals by this summer pending inspections.

His strategy is to buy secondhand ships and pay down much of the price, with 12-month time charters backing the acquisition.

“We’re not taking spot risk on any vessels we buy,” he said. “Everything is back-to-back with very solid charterers who will pay no matter what the markets do.”

Under current market conditions, such a strategy favours handysizes.

“I can’t speak for six months down the road, but I am looking at handysizes now. The prices in supras and ultras have gone up quite a lot in relation to earnings,” he said.

“In handysize, the prices have risen too, but the period charter market is very strong. The last time you saw handysize period earnings at this level, handysize secondhand prices were $5m or $6m above today.”

That means that on a handysize bulker purchase, Vega Bulk can expect to earn back something like half the purchase price in the first year of operation, and Fjeld sees little risk because of the quality of his chartering counterparties.

Vega Bulk has the financial backing of Oslo financier Pareto plus traditional bank financing. The owned ships are all held through corporations in which Vega Bulk is the majority equity holder alongside equity investors syndicated by Pareto.

Vega Bulk’s other owned ships are the 55,500-dwt Vega Stetind (ex-Aditya, built 2008), which it bought last July from Swiss Singapore Overseas Enterprise for a reported $16.5m, and the 32,000-dwt Vega Falktind (ex-Serenity C, built 2011), which it bought soon after from Greece’s Cosmoship for a reported $13.5m.

At the time Vega Bulk started operations, TradeWinds reported that Fjeld was counting on strong relationships with Asian cargo owners, including steel mills and miners in South Asia, East Africa and Malaysia. With the hiring of Sindum, who has headed Western Bulk’s South Atlantic division, the company aimed to run a complementary operation west of Suez.