African Renaissance Holdings (ARH), one of South Africa's leading empowerment investment groups, has acquired a significant stake in two leading Cape Town maritime companies. ARH, which was incorporated in 1993, has a diversified portfolio of interests in mining, aviation, information technology, retailing, and leisure.

According to a joint announcement in Cape Town by African Renaissance Holdings and the two sister companies, Marine Bulk Carriers and Marine Crew Services, ARH has acquired a 20% stake in both companies.

Marine Bulk Carriers (MBC) is a leading South African based iron ore and coal shipping company and Marine Crew Services (MCS) one of the leading crewing and training companies in the local maritime field. Both are black empowerment companies founded 5 years ago to increase South African interest in the international bulk shipping business and to train and enhance jobs for South Africans in the maritime world.

"The investment by ARH in MBC and MCS will strengthen the capital base of both companies," says MBC and MCS director Jan Rabie. "It will offer MCS the opportunity to expand its seafarer job creation programs, while in the dry bulk operation of MBC it will strengthen our relationship with the mining sector over a wide front. "

Mr Rabie says revenue associated with MCS and MBC operations is close to R500 million. "Only a fraction of the shipments of South African iron ore and coal is handled by South African shipping companies. With the support of ARH and our co investors, MBC will be able to expand it's involvement in the SA iron ore and coal shipments of close to a 100 million tons per year.

African Renaissance Holdings' Chief Executive Jurgen Kogl, who will become a director of both MBC and MCS, says his company, under the leadership of the late Dr Vincent Msibi as Chairman, have for some time been looking at opportunities to invest in shipping. "The success of MBC who has become a leading South African based dry bulk operator in just five years, and MCS, who has carved an important place for itself in the Southern African seafarer training and crew placing world, has convinced us that we will be partners with similar objectives."

"We believe that the South African commodity exporters underestimate the contribution that sea freight can make to expand the country's shipping industry, rather than most of the funds flowing out of the country. It can also play an important role in the BEE scorecard of companies through the 35% BEE share in MBC", says Mr Kogl.

The other major shareholders in MBC and MCS are Sanko Shipping Co of Japan, the Chairman Mr Lester Peteni, and the well-known South African shipping personalities, Robert Knutzen and Jan Rabie.