JAPANESE shipowner Mitsui OSK Lines has increased its stake in Bermuda-  headquartered Gearbulk Holding from 40% to 49%.
MOL has been a shareholder in Gearbulk since it was established in 1991.
Ownership of Gearbulk is shared between MOL and the Norwegian Jebsen family,
from whom MOL has bought its additional shares.
No immediate comment was available from Iebsen or MOL about whether this
move could lead to the Japanese line eventually acquiring a majority stake in Gearbulk.
The price MOL paid Jebsen for  the additional 9% holding was not disclosed.
Gearbulk had an estimated turnover in 2009 of $941m.
Gearbulk operates a fleet of 64 vessels.
Its fleet mainly comprises large open- hatch general cargoships, most equipped with overhead gantry cranes or jib cranes.
They carry a wide variety of cargoes, including forest products and other unitized  cargo.  
Its recent investments have mainly been in larger panamax size bulk carriers.  
The vessels are dedicated to the operator's traditional trades and include a new series of panamax bulkers under construction at Oshima in Japan, similar to the 72,863dwt Corella Arrow, which was delivered in 2009 and fitted with the owner's characteristic twin overhead gantry cranes, each with a lifting capacity of 70 tonnes.
Gearbulk has 20 ships on order. This is part of a fleet modernisation progamme,  
with nearly half Gearbullds current fleet  more than 20 years old, including over 20    
ships that are at least 25 years old.   
Some of its ships are litted with tanks to carry liquid pitch, and Gearbulk owns three specialised liquid pitch tankers.
A MOL statement said the increased shareholding reflected the longstanding partner relationship between the shareholders and demonstrated MOL's firm future to commitment to Gearbulk. It also indicates the Japanese carrier's commitment to expanding its interest in this specialized sector, where Gearbulk is the market leader.