Handymax dry bulk vessel carrier Eagle Bulk Shipping is nearly doubling its fleet, adding 22 ships to its current size of 25 through 2011, it is reported.

The vessels will cost the New York City-based company $35m each, but according to the company it may have to wait for nearly three years for a rebound in shipping rates to gain from its fleet expansion.

Eagle Bulk Shipping CEO Sophocles Zoullas said that “we’re in a low cycle. Charters two or three years out will be better than today”.

Nineteen of the new ships have set charters in place valued at $700m and other ships are due to come off existing charters in a weaker dry bulk market, including two by year-end.

Dry bulk rates have fallen 77% from May 2008 as the worldwide downturn cut demand for shipments, especially in Europe, Japan and South Korea.

The company reported Q2 net income of $13.3m, down 10% from a year earlier. Revenue rose 42% to $53m as the company added five vessels from a year earlier.