AAL Shipping has acquired two heavy lift 33,000dwt W-Class multipurpose vessels from the second-hand market: the AAL Mars and the AAL Merkur.

The vessels have been serving within the carrier’s operating fleet worldwide on a commercial management basis.

The company said the vessels have helped to grow its owned fleet to 569,600 dwt and render the carrier control of 80% of its current 711,200-dwt operating fleet.

AAL made four other acquisitions over the past eight months: two heavy lift G-Class MPVs (25,800 dwt each), the AAL Galveston and AAL Genoa and two W-class MPVs (33,000 dwt each) the AAL Paris and Grey Fox.

AAL has also announced the progress of its third-generation multipurpose (MPP) ship-building program. This will see AAL add a minimum of four mega-size heavy lift MPP vessels to its fleet.

The company said these would be “premium heavy lift carriers” featuring innovative design, heavy lifting gear, and optimised MPP cargo intake and handling capability.

They will each be 32,000 dwt, with three heavy lift cranes (350 tonnes each and 700-tonne maximum lift) and fully compliant with forthcoming IMO emissions regulations.

The vessels will also feature other new technologies in line with AAL’s digitalisation and sustainability objectives.

AAL managing director Kyriacos Panayides said the company had been planning its third generation building program for several years.

“[We have been] patiently waiting until such time that market forecasts and projected cargo demand within key customer verticals proved sustainable for this kind of investment,” he said.

“AAL drew upon 26 years of multipurpose heavy lift operational experience to design innovative vessels that would not only accommodate all today’s multipurpose cargo types, but also handle the growing size of project cargo components being planned for key industry verticals like wind. The newbuilds will be deployed in support of our customers’ large-scale global projects both on our regular monthly trade routes between the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia and our bespoke tramp solutions worldwide.”

Mr Panayides said in 2021, the MPP shipping sector has been seeing phenomenal growth despite still operating in the throes of the global pandemic and severe port congestion.

“As a project heavy lift cargo specialist, AAL continues to prioritise breakbulk and project cargoes and servicing the needs of our traditional and long-term customers,” he said.

“This fleet development strategy not only builds our capacity on core trade routes between the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Oceania in support of these customers, but also gives AAL greater decision-making control of our fleet going forward.”