It’s the time of year, with the school holidays and end of term approaching, that many pupils will nervously take home their school reports to anxious parents. With the spread of challenges facing the industry, it’s unlikely the shipping markets would achieve many top grades. However some sectors might still achieve an “A” for effort and this week’s analysis reviews the markets’ performance in the first half.

Must Do Better!

Our Graph of the Week compares performance in the first half of 2016 to the averages since the financial crisis, as a barometer of performance against trend. First on the graph is the ClarkSea Index, our average earnings index covering all major sectors, which is 18% down on the average since 2009 and 30% compared to 1H 2015. The index actually finished the mid-year at just $8,575/day, close to its all time low of $7,444/day. Clearly room for improvement.

Heading For Re-Sits?

With widely reported historical lows in the bulker sector in the first half, Capes averaged below $5,000/day in 1H 2016, some 76% below the average since 2009. Containerships fared little better, slumping to 54% below trend while offshore rates were also almost 50% down on trend and generally hovering around OPEX levels. The prevalence of lay-up and stacking makes offshore arguably the most challenged sector at present. LPG rates also moved below trend, with VLGCs averaging $32,000/day, albeit following their stellar performance of 2015. Meanwhile trade is heading towards more muted growth with an expectation of 2.2% in 2016 compared to a trend rate of 3.2%.

“A” For Effort

Reduced fleet growth (1% to reach 1.8 bn dwt), increased demolition and extremely limited newbuild orders should all get an “A” for effort. Although demolition of 29m dwt was slightly below 1H 2012 levels, it was 43% above trend. However orders of 18m dwt and $16bn constituted a 35-year low and 68% down on the average since 2009 (lower than the 19.1m dwt in 1H 2009 and lower still if the Valemax orders of 12m dwt are excluded). Further pain for the shipyards and pressure on newbuild prices seems likely as the year progresses. Sale and Purchase activity was well down in value terms but marginally above trend by tonnage, reflecting the strong buying appetite for bulkers (bulker sales of 21m dwt in 1H 2016, the highest tonnage figure since 1H 2007).

Keep Up The Good Work

Although they eased back during the first half, tanker earnings continued to perform above trend with VLCC rates still averaging around $50,000/day. Product tanker earnings have also eased back somewhat this year but remain above trend, as does our index of chemical tanker earnings. The best performer across shipping was the Ro-Ro market, continuing its improvement from 2015 and 60% above trend, with the Ferry and Cruise markets also generally positive.

So shipping is experiencing some of its toughest conditions since the financial crisis and, despite its many efforts, may well be heading for an appointment with the headmaster (the bankers?). Have a nice day.