New multipurpose/heavy-lift (MPV/HL) carrier King Ocean Gulf Alliance (KOGA) will roll out its third sailing in July after the company’s launch was slowed by the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, forcing it to readjust its plans. Initial sailings took place in April and early June.
“We were planning on more, but COVID-19 hit right as we started, right as we opened our doors” in January, CEO Fernando Maruri told JOC.com.
Houston-based KOGA serves the US Gulf, Caribbean, and the north coast of South America, and Maruri said the firm is also considering adding voyages from the US East Coast to the Middle East, as well as some other non-traditional routes. “We're interested in repeat contracts, but — no surprise to anybody — that's not available right now, so we are working where we can,” Maruri said.
In their US Gulf-NCSA trade, KOGA is handling oil- and energy-related cargo, mining equipment, power generation equipment, and bulk parcels such as pipe or rice. Clients include “some big names that I thought would take longer for us to have access to, given all that's happened … We are through the first phase of entering the market,” Maruri said.
KOGA is chartering the market as ships are needed for specific voyages, Maruri said, rather than retaining a fleet on time charter. Although their first vessel was 25,000 dwt, they will probably stay between 5,000 dwt and 20,000 dwt. Because of the demand-depressing effects of the COVID-19 crisis and pre-existing vessel overcapacity, there's no problem finding tonnage, he added.
“The ships we've chartered have been open and available,” said Maruri. “As a company, we are going to be cargo-focused rather than ship-focused. We work with a number of owners keen to put equipment in our hands.” Vessel owners are also facing a difficult market and are willing to support anyone who might have longevity in the trade, he said.
The breakbulk carrier sector had already endured “an eight- or nine-year beatdown,” Maruri said, and was undergoing a reset even before COVID-19 shutdowns began, thanks to sector consolidations and bankruptcies. Many traditional owners and operators are “gone or reconfigured …. It's the biggest reset I've seen in the 27 years I've been in the industry,” he said.
Breakbulk sector personnel are also changing positions in almost dizzying numbers. Maruri himself is an example. He worked for breakbulk carrier Intermarine for 25 years, his final position being sales director, until departing in January to start KOGA in partnership with Miami-based King Ocean Services.