March 13 - The heavy lift shipping industry is set to welcome a new kid on what most would describe as a pretty overcrowded block.

At the end of February, Harren & Partner (H&P) and institutional investors advised by JP Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM) launched SUMO-Shipping, a project-related joint venture aiming for a "substantial modern fleet" of vessels under five years old, with combined crane lifting capacities greater than 500 tonnes.

These would take to the seas by 2014, the year dubbed by analysts as "crunch" for an industry battered by rising costs and rate squeezes against a backdrop of overcapacity.

H&P founder Peter Harren said he expects to harvest plenty of business from a "growing demand for infrastructure projects", especially given a "background of expected long-term price rises for energy and raw materials".

Both partners bring unique skills to the joint venture. H&P brings a long and distinguished track record in commercial and technical heavy lift management to the venture, while JPMAM supports the venture through institutional asset management and financing expertise, and a global network of industry contacts. According to the head of JPMAM's Maritime Group, Andrian Dacy, "We are very fortunate to have found a partner with the reputation, historical success and shipping capabilities of Harren & Partner, and look forward to building this initiative together." The joint venture enables both parties to leverage their competitive advantages in the key areas of sourcing and acquiring investments in the heavy lift dry cargo segment.

SUMO-Shipping currently has a 10,000 dwt heavy lift vessel trading in Asia, one of six single-hold vessels with combined 900 tonne lifting capacities ordered from Taizhou Kouan Shipbuilding Yard in China.

It will look to acquire more, either further Harren or third-third party vessels to both operate and charter.

SUMO-Shipping's managing director Martin Harren's only nod to the maelstrom into which the venture is born is to refer in passing to a "difficult market situation due to the shipping crisis", but this in the context of the "positive effect of mutual cooperation".

A bold move, then, by two seasoned partners with an eye firmly on that 2014 crunch and beyond?

Watch out for our ships and shippings lines supplement which will be included in the May/June edition of HLPFI. To contribute to the editorial content of the supplement; or advertise in the feature, contact now.