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Newbuildings bulkers unsafe, warns Safe Bulkers

STRUCTURAL problems in newbuilding bulk carriers are likely to haunt the industry as trading of newbuilding contracts leaves a supervision vacuum, a leading bulker owner has warned. “We are not happy with the quality of work we are seeing in certain yards,” Safe Bulkers chairman and chief executive Polys Hajioannou told Lloyd’s List. “It is especially the case when the ships are resales from other companies and it is very, very disappointing when you see some people have not been doing their job.” Mr Hajioannou said his company was forced to “fight” harder than ever to get ships of acceptable quality. He identified the main problems occurring at particular yards in China and Korea, rather than Japan. “Quality standards are coming down and there is almost no supervision in some cases,” he said. “We are very concerned. It is your reputation and the safety of the crew at risk. “Some ships have serious defects such as bottom welding and other real problem areas. Someone has to give this attention because it has been overlooked.” Mr Hajioannou said that the collapse in vessel values had prompted some owners to take little further interest in the construction of the ship, and concentrate only on bailing out of the project. While there would also be plenty of cancellations, “most of them will be bought by someone else at reduced prices over the next 36 months”. But Mr Hajioannou questioned the degree of commitment that some builders would make to quality construction in the meantime. Safe Bulkers has been regularly in the news recently, “closely managing” its own newbuilding programme in a process that has seen a mixture of cancellations, delays and resale purchases of its own. Mr Hajioannou said he was now “more comfortable” with the company’s investment programme. He said owners should spread their capital expenditure as much as possible. In some cases keeping existing newbuilding orders was preferable to cancelling as finance was in place and new finance margins would make ships more expensive in future.

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