PACIFIC Basin Bulk Shipping of Hong Kong has acquired 10 second-hand handysize dry bulk carriers for US$112 million. The acquisitions mark the completion of a major part of its second-hand fleet expansion programme. The exercise has doubled the size of the group's handysize fleet to 20 vessels aggregating 512,619 deadweight tonnes (dwt), and raised its operational fleet to 25 vessels of 872,584 dwt. The additions reduce the average age of the group's handysize fleet from 12.1 years in September to 11.5 years. Christopher Buttery, chief executive officer of Pacific Basin, said: 'These acquisitions constitute the core of our near-term expansion objective and underscore our focus on owning modern tonnage in the handysize sector, which is particularly well suited to Pacific trading.' He said the company now had one of the largest and most modern fleets of handysize ships in the world, at a time when demand for such vessels appeared to be strong and supply was expected to diminish. The group has also signed contracts totalling $75 million to build four new shallow drafted handysize vessels at Chinese shipyards. And it has taken options to build a number of additional ships. The Guangzhou Shipyard will build two more 26,300 dwt vessels. The specifications of these vessels are identical to the five already being built for the company by the yard. The vessels are scheduled for delivery in the first half of 1997. Shanghai Shipyard will build two 24,000 dwt handysize vessels, which are scheduled for delivery in the second half of 1996 and the first half of 1997. These ships have been specifically designed to carry heavy cargoes, and will be especially suitable for steel, logs and timber. Their lower holds are virtually box-shaped, allowing for the convenient stowage of many other types of packaged cargo. The company believes the new orders make it the largest non-domestic buyer of ships from China. 'Pacific Basin's long term objective is to maintain a fleet of handysize vessels which are well designed, well built and which do the right job for our charterers and for bulk cargo pool operators,' said Paul Over, Pacific Basin's chief operating officer. 'Our experience in building ships in China means we are able to get such vessels at very competitive prices.' The company is also negotiating with other shipyards in China on building more handysize vessels. 'We are confident that more orders will be placed in the near future to complete the newbuilding expansion programme,' Mr Over said. The 25,410 dwt Handy Accord, which was 82 per cent owned by Pacific Basin, was sold recently for $10.2 million. The vessel was built in Imabari, Japan, in 1983, and had been in the Pacific Basin fleet since November 1991. It is due to be delivered to the new owners next month.