MITSUI OSK Lines is to acquire a further 23% stake in Swiss-registered Gearbulk Holding AG from founder Kristian Jebsen and family to move to majority ownership.

Mr Jebsen will retain 28% while MOL moves to 72% in a transaction the partners says is a natural continuation of the close and long-term partnership between Gearbulk and MOL, which dates back to 1991. Gearbulk and the Grieg Maritime Group, will continue to own 65% and 35% of G2 Ocean, respectively.

Kristian Jebsen will continue as chair of the G2 Ocean Board of Directors and keep his role as chairman and CEO of Gearbulk. Gearbulk Holding will maintain its presence in Switzerland and Gearbulk Shipowning will relocate from Bermuda to Bergen, Norway. As a global leader in shipping, MOL brings valuable industry knowledge and financial resources that will support G2 Ocean’s and Gearbulk’s continued success, the companies say.

In a joint press release from Gearbulk and MOL Mr Jebsen said he was pleased that MOL has committed to continue to invest in and develop Gearbulk as its main owner: “They know the business well as shareholders for more than thirty years and acknowledge Gearbulk’s strong market position and concepts.”

Toshinobu Shinoda, senior executive officer at MOL expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the partnership with Jebsen and Gearbulk.

“We have had an excellent collaboration with Kristian Jebsen for many years, and we are pleased and grateful that his experience and expertise will continue to be available for Gearbulk and G2 Ocean,” he said, adding:

“We know that Mr. Jebsen has been committed to ensuring a long-term and strong ownership in Gearbulk, and we will do our utmost to further develop the company’s strong international position.”

In a parallel statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange announced that it has decided to undertake a business reorganisation of its equity-method affiliate company, Gearbulk Holding AG, making it a consolidated subsidiary company, by around January 2025.

“Gearbulk is the world’s leading player in the open-hatch vessel segment, controlling a fleet of 60 vessels,” MOL said. “It has a track record of growth by transporting various semi-finished products such as pulp and steel products, as well as small-lot and project cargo, and boasts high transportation and cargo handling know-how and ship management quality.

“By adding Gearbulk’s open-hatch segment business to MOL business, we will be able to offer a diverse range of transport services by a broad range of vessel types.

“The consolidation of Gearbulk creates synergies such as enhancing the expansion of the group’s business base by adding Gearbulk’s worldwide network, creating new business opportunities, and boosting the efficiency of vessel allocation. The company also expects these synergies to significantly differentiate it from its competitors and strengthen its cost competitiveness and customer network.”

Gearbulk was established in Norway in 1968, with British, French and Norwegian partners and was a pioneer and strong proponent of open-hatch, gantry-equipped vessels mostly employed in forest product trades.  MOL first bought into Gearbulk in 1991 with 25% when Kristian Gerhard Jebsen bought out his partners, soon built to 40% and in 2009 increased the holding to 49%.

Gearbulk and now G2Ocean have been active in Australian trades for five decades.