THE Kishinchand Chellaram group is close to finalising orders for two more bulk carriers.
'We are in negotiations with yards in China, South Korea and Japan to build two Handymax or Panamax vessels,' managing director Sham Chellaram said.
'We have very ambitious plans to expand our fleet.' 'With prices of second-hand vessels being so high we are actively looking at further new buildings,' he said.
The group may also buy some second-hand products tankers in the 40,000 dead weight tonne (dwt) range to diversify its fleet, he said.
The company has taken delivery of two Panamax bulk carriers of 73,000 dwt this year from Samsung Heavy Industries of South Korea.
The order was placed in June 1993. The Darya Geeth was delivered in February and the Darya Preeth last month.
The vessels, classed by Lloyd's Register, have been placed on the Hong Kong register, which now boasts more than 570 vessels totalling 8.7 million gross tonnes.
The group's fleet comprises eight vessels totalling 365,753 dwt.
Four of the vessels are registered in Hong Kong, underlining Chellaram's confidence in the future of the territory after the 1997 handover.
The vessels are fully managed by subsidiary Kishinchand Chellaram Maritime Agencies.
All the names of the group's ships have the prefix Darya, which means ocean.
'We are known to maintain and operate our vessels efficiently to provide high quality service to the users of our ships,' Mr Chellaram said.
'Everybody is very quality conscious these days, and with newer vessels we hope to maintain our reputation as a quality operator.' He said the group's strategic goal was to develop long-term relationships with end-users, providing them reliable sea transportation for their raw materials and finished products.
The Kishinchand Chellaram group bears the name of its Indian founder who started the business in 1915 from a small shop in Madras, India, before diversifying into manufacturing, trading and shipping with worldwide operations.
The Chellaram family still controls the group, with Lokumal Chellaram, now 80, as chairman.
His two sons, Lal and Sham Chellaram, run the day-to-day operations from Europe and Hong Kong.