Swire Bulk is making a shock exit from the UK, closing its London office and making staff there redundant as it looks at consolidating its European operations, sources have told TradeWinds.
The Singapore-headquartered shipowner and operator, which has historic roots in the UK, has a desk of roughly 14 chartering staff and operators in London focusing on handysizes and supramaxes in the Atlantic.
Sources said these functions will be handled in future from Swire Bulk’s only other European office in Hamburg, Germany, as well as in Miami.
Swire Bulk chief executive Peter Norborg did not deny this when approached by TradeWinds, but said the decision-making process is still underway.
He said: “Swire Bulk is currently undertaking a period of consultation around the proposed consolidation of its European offices.
“Swire Bulk remains committed to being a global owner and operator, providing the highest level of service to all customers, including those in Europe. Business operations and activities will continue as per normal during this period.”
He said the company would not comment further during the consultation period.
A similar “consultation process” has been undertaken this year for Swire Bulk’s Australian offices in Sydney and Melbourne, sources with knowledge of the matter told TradeWinds. The Melbourne office has since closed.
Closure of the London base would leave Swire Bulk with offices in Singapore, Hamburg, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, Sydney and Shanghai.
Swire Bulk, the dry cargo arm of the Swire Group, has a trading fleet of around 125 handysize, supramax and ultramax bulk carriers at any time.
Since 2020, the company has also partnered Swire Projects, which operates multipurpose and heavylift vessels, to utilise Swire Bulk vessels’ backhaul capacity in carrying renewable cargoes including turbine blades and towers.
The China Navigation Co (CNCo), parent of Swire Bulk and the Swire Group, celebrated its 150th anniversary in January.
CNCo is controlled by the Swire family, who hail from the UK but have historically focused their business dealings in China.
This article has been updated since first publication to clarify the status of Swire Bulk’s Australian offices.