With about 40 ships ordered at Chinese yards, no other Western company has as much experience of building in this country as the UK's Graig Group.
"Since 1995, Chinese shipbuilding has evolved markedly," says Hugh Williams, CEO of the Graig Group. "China is the place to build vessels today." At the recent Mare Forum in Rotterdam, Williams expressed confidence that China would be able to deliver the twelve firm orders for the Group's Diamond 53 carriers "on time and to standard". And Graig has set a high standard: the company's ships will be 53,000-dwt bulk carriers with double hulls and a number of other innovations incorporated by their designer, Carl Bro of Denmark.
According to Williams, Graig identified the advantages for owners and charterers in building double-hull bulkers. It also saw that Chinese yards could build new designs cost effectively and yet still be prepared to offer a degree of flexibility not found in other major Asian yards. Graig Group was eager to do business with Chinese shipyards, but instead of going alone, the Group assembled a coalition of partners whose individual strengths could be focused to create a stronger project.
Strength in numbers
"We started by getting together a designer, class, owners and yards then added a finance package, both local and international, and a newbuilding supervision package," he says. "The first benefit was that we got an owner-friendly design, rather than something a yard has come up with to simplify its work." Williams explains that Graig had the technical expertise and market support of the major class society active in China. "We were able to offer a package with excellent finance terms and attractive delivery slots. Then we involved a major broker and we had a project which was much bigger than we could have managed alone. In this way, we were all able to input experience and expertise, and each of us benefited."
To date, there are 12 Diamonds on order for four owners, and Graig will soon be launching new, larger Diamond designs based on the same sharing philosophy. "Our only current limitation is the production capacity of yards that we deem to be acceptable as regards to quality," says Williams. But he is quick to add that Graig has confidence that both the quality and capacity of China's shipbuilding sector will continue to improve rapidly. "Providing there is unrelenting yard supervision and correct documentation, companies can get a high-quality product at a good price," says Williams.