Cape Town based BEE shipping company, Marine Bulk Carriers, sister company of Marine Crew Services, has extended the bulk carrier fleet under its management by two new vessels to further increase opportunities for South African mineral exporters.

Marine Bulk Carriers also recently announced that it had concluded two new anchor-handling contracts with PetroSA. This deal involves the provision of two powerful tugs to provide assistance to the oilrig Pride South Seas in the oilfields along South Africa's Southern Coast.

MBC has now also reached agreement with Japanese shipping company Sanko to take over the commercial management of the Shining Star, a 172 000 ton bulk carrier working mainly in the iron ore trade. The 'Shining Star' is loading its first cargo under the new agreements in Saldanha Bay this week.

The second of the two new vessels under MBC management is the 82 000 ton 'Billion Trader 1', a Kamsarmax bulk carrier which was immediately placed on a long term charter.

"Sanko's decision to place the 'Shining Star' with MBC is further evidence of the Japanese company's commitment to the development of MBC's business in the bulk shipping business," says Jan Rabie, Director of MBC. Sanko has a 20% share in MBC following a deal concluded in 2005 between Sanko and the Cape Town based company.

"While the world shipping markets recently experienced an all time peak driven by the commodity boom and imports to China, MBC has been able to establish itself as an operator in the bulk business. These latest moves, including the acquisition of 20% of MBC and MCS by African Renaissance Holdings Limited, a blue chip BEE investment company, will boost our capital base for further expansion. MBC is looking for investment opportunities in the bulk and off-shore sectors and has come a long way since its establishment three years ago."

"The 'Shining Star' is perfectly suited for exports through Saldanha Bay, but coal out of Richard's Bay will also continue to play an important part in our business," says Mr Rabie. "MBC has become a leading South African based operator in the exports of iron ore and coal from South Africa. We have demonstrated our ability to perform in the international bulk market to the advantage of South African brokers who have been affected by the exodus of bulk shipping companies from South Africa."

"The addition of these two vessels, as well as the new anchor handling supply vessels, has brought the number of vessels under charter and commercial management by MBC to eight." says Mr Rabie. Last year MBC extended its relationship with Sanko Steamship Company of Japan to take over the commercial management of the 161 000 ton Cape size vessel 'Sanko Oasis'. "At that stage we already managed the 150 000 ton 'Sanko Spark' and the addition of the second vessel underlined Sanko's commitment to our business."

Mr Rabie says MBC has also independently chartered two Panamax size vessels, the 'Elinakos', of 73,780 tons for a period of two years and the 'Golden Kiji' for one year, in order to give it more options for extending its business in the bulk shipping market.

The Shining Star's first cargo of iron ore under the new agreement will be delivered to Rotterdam on the Dutch coast for the Austrian company, Voest Alpine. From Rotterdam the cargo will be following an interesting route by barge along the canals and waterways of Western Europe to its final destination in Linz in Northern Austria.

The two anchor handling tugs, the 12600 horse-power 'Eems', and the 10880 horse-power 'Ocean Supporter', have already started their contracts with PetroSA. The 'Eems' has been chartered by MBC from Femco Management (Ltd), a company based on the Russian east coast island of Sachalin, north of Japan, while the 'Ocean Supporter' was deployed in South African waters in a charter arrangement with the Norwegian company Oceanlink.