A Greek bulker owner is being linked to an order for suezmax tanker newbuildings in China.

Shipbuilding sources said Piraeus-based Gourdomichalis Maritime has diversified into the tanker arena with an order for two 158,000-dwt crude carriers at state-owned Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS).

This is being done through a new company, Flynn Shipping, established by the Greek outfit.

Flynn Shipping is believed to be paying more than $80m each for the conventionally fuelled vessels, which are scheduled for delivery in 2027.

Officials at SWS and Gourdomichalis Maritime did not respond to emails seeking confirmation.

One shipbuilding player told TradeWinds that it is very rare for a “small” Greek bulker owner to diversify into the tanker arena and order such “big ships”.

“The order has kept many of us wondering why Gourdomichalis Maritime has made such a move,” he said.

Gourdomichalis Maritime was founded in 1969 by Stathis Gourdomichalis, a former president of the Union of Greek Shipowners who died in 2006.

Since 2021, the company has been led by president and chief executive George Rizopoulos.

Gourdomichalis Maritime’s website features five Japanese-built bulk carriers under management — the 82,900-dwt Kavo Yeraki (built 2006), 75,700-dwt Kavo Paloma (built 2007), 75,400-dwt Kavo Alkyon (built 2005), 58,700-dwt Kavo Perdika (built 2013) and 52,400-dwt Kavo Aetos (built 2003).

The 82,900-dwt Kavo Yeraki is the largest of Gourdomichalis Maritime’s five bulkers. Photo: Piet Sinke/maasmondmaritime.com

The website also says the management has looked after tankers and bulkers throughout its history.

However, in recent decades, it has clearly focused on dry bulk tonnage acquired either as newbuildings or on the secondhand market.

Suezmax milestone

The suezmax orderbook has reached 50 ships so far in 2023.

Figures compiled by shipbroker company name show that this is the highest number of orders placed in a single year in the past decade, beating the 48 ordered in 2015.

The suezmax order backlog now stands at 63 vessels or 11% of the existing fleet.

Shipping companies that have ordered the ship type include Eastern Pacific Shipping, Kyklades Maritime, Zodiac Maritime, Advantage Tankers, Maran Tankers and Capital Maritime.

Changing trade patterns brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been touted as one reason for the renewed interest in suezmax newbuildings, according to a report by Simpson Spence Young (SSY) earlier this year.

Russian crude oil and refined products importers have had to source alternative supplies following the invasion.

The shift has largely benefited suezmaxes and aframaxes as Europe’s crude requirements are fulfilled by Atlantic and Middle Eastern suppliers instead.

SSY said a lack of tanker ordering in recent years, as yards favoured gas carriers and container ships, had meant the suezmax orderbook as a percentage of the fleet stood at just 2% at the start of the year — a dramatic decline from 2009 when the figure was 46%.

Despite the surge in suezmax newbuilding orders this year, prices have risen by only around 6% to $85m per ship, according to Clarksons.