May 5 - Rickmers-Linie is upgrading its Indian service with the addition of new vessels.

It will also provide a direct service both eastbound and westbound between Europe and India although calls in Pakistan and the Middle East will be possible on an inducement basis. The base ports served are Hamburg, Antwerp, Genoa, Mumbai and Chennai.

Four new vessels are in the process of entering this service. Linde (seen below) and Martin have been long term chartered by the line while Rickmers Yokohama and Rickmers Tianjin are due for delivery from the Xinshun Shipyard Group in China in May and July respectively. Linde was the first to be phased in, starting her first eastbound voyage in mid March.

Built in 2005, Linde and Martin are 12,800dwt vessels each equipped with two 120-tonne capacity cranes that can be twinned to lift 240 tonnes. Rickmers Yokohama and Rickmers Tianjin are 17,000dwt vessels each equipped with two 150-tonne cranes and an 80-tonne crane. This enables them to lift up to 300 
tonnes by twinning the two larger cranes.

According to a company statement, being smaller than the nine 30,000dwt vessels operated by Rickmers on its Round-the-World Pearl String service, the ships employed on the revamped Indian service offer greater flexibility to serve ports such as Mumbai - where locks restrict the size of vessels - as well as various smaller ports on an inducement basis. The Middle East Gulf will now be served primarily by the Pearl String service.

Gerhard Janssen , director Marketing & Sales, Rickmers-Linie , believes that the timing of this upgrade of the service is perfect: "We are seeing increasing demand for breakbulk space on this route. Eastbound, we expect to be loading steel products as a base load, topping off with manufactured goods ranging from mobile cranes and mining products through to specialist railway and power generation equipment. Westbound, there are more and more non-containerisable shipments as India's engineering and manufacturing capabilities develop."

The charter market for breakbulk vessels with heavy gear has also improved, says Janssen: "Only a year or two ago, all that was really available was old tonnage in need of retirement. Now there are a number of good modern ships available at reasonable rates. We still have four ships to be delivered after the Rickmers Yokohama and Rickmers Tianjin, and we are seeing a continued improvement of the market environment."