October 30 - Grindrod and Sturrock Shipping have jointly announced the merger of their respective ships agency operations under a 50:50 joint venture.

Sturrock Shipping, which is owned by the Sturrock family and the Calulo Group, Grindrod's existing BEE partner, said that the merger is expected to take effect from November 1, 2012, with the portion of the merger relating to the Namibian agency company still being subject to Namibian competition commission approval.

This merger follows on from the successful acquisition by Sturrock Shipping of a 15 percent shareholding in Röhlig-Grindrod (Pty) Ltd, in June with the latter acquiring Sturrock's Clearing & Forwarding division in return.

"We are extremely pleased to have cemented the relationship with Sturrock Shipping and our BEE partner, Calulo," said Hylton Gray, CEO Grindrod Logistics. He said the joint venture will present many business opportunities across both local and international markets, as well as achieve the two companies' collective aspirations of a minimum level 3 BEE rating for the South African operations.

The combined ships agency business is represented across Africa and Australia through long established brands, with both Grindrod and Sturrock Shipping having brands that are over 100 years old. According to the official statement, the independent brands will continue to be operated under the combined business.

Where Grindrod has a strong market presence in the dry bulk space, providing services to both liner and non-liner clients, Sturrock Shipping is primarily involved in non-liner wet bulk activities. Whereas Sturrock Shipping has a significant footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, Grindrod's ships agency operations are conducted in southern Africa only. As a result, significant synergies and market opportunities are expected to arise from the merger of these two businesses.

"Amassing a significant amount of expertise across the ships agency spectrum allows us to offer increased services to the global shipping industry, said Andrew Sturrock, who has been appointed the chief executive officer of the merged business.

"Combined with Grindrod's port and infrastructure thrust into Africa we look forward to continued expansion of the agency business into emerging markets."