Archives for category: Car Carrier

The car carrier sector has experienced very challenging market conditions over recent years, partly reflecting an estimated 2% decline in global seaborne car trade between 2013 and 2016. However, in common with a number of other shipping sectors, 2017 so far has seen an encouraging return to notably more positive trends on the demand side.

For the full version of this article, please go to Shipping Intelligence Network.

The car carrier sector has been yet another part of the shipping industry to have faced challenging conditions this year. The focus has largely been on demand side difficulties, with growth in global seaborne car trade appearing to have gone into reverse gear. It has been a rather bumpy ride, and today’s car carrier market indicators still seem to be flashing up plenty of warning signals.

Going Slow

Growth in global seaborne car trade has struggled to return to the robust levels seen prior to the global economic downturn, when car trade was one of the faster growing parts of seaborne trade. Given the strong link between economic growth, consumer demand and car sales, the car carrier sector has been highly exposed to sluggish world economic performance in recent years, and global seaborne car trade has still not yet returned to its 2008 peak of 21.3m cars, with average growth of just 1.4% p.a. in 2013-15. This year has seen further pressure on seaborne volumes, with car trade projected to have dropped 4% to 19.8m cars.

The key driver of this fall has been considerably lower imports into developing economies following the commodity price downturn. Car sales in these countries have dropped sharply, and seaborne car imports into the Middle East, Africa and South America are set to drop by more than 10% this year. While imports into North America and Europe, still the two largest markets for imported vehicles, have grown moderately (by 2% and 4% respectively), this has not been enough to offset declines elsewhere. Other factors have also dented volumes, with expansion of car output closer to demand centres leading to a disconnect between global car sales, which have continued to expand, and seaborne trade volumes.

Warning Lights

Largely as a result of the downturn in demand, car carrier market conditions have deteriorated further this year. Most car carriers still operate under long-term agreements, but guideline charter rates have fallen back to subdued levels, with the one year rate for a 6,500 ceu PCTC falling to $16,000/day in recent weeks, down 30% from the start of the year. Vessel idling has risen, utilisation of active capacity is under pressure, and waiting time between fixtures has increased, whilst a trend towards shorter-term and spot fixtures has also been apparent.

Making The Turn

In response to these pressures, owners have stepped up supply-side action. Scrapping has increased, and is projected to reach 0.2m car equivalent capacity this year, over four times the 2015 level and the highest since 2009, with fleet capacity projected to have declined by 0.3% in full year 2016. Meanwhile, only two ships have been ordered this year, after 42 contracts were placed in 2015.

Route Planning

Yet the road ahead still seems far from clear for the car carrier sector, with demand seeming unlikely to shift up a few gears in the short-term. In our annual Car Carrier Trade & Transport report, we look at the latest trends in detail. This year’s report is now available on the Shipping Intelligence Network. Have a nice day.

SIW1250

Motoring terminology has always provided shipping analysts with a wide range of vocabulary to use when describing the car carrier sector. Last year demand growth appeared to have stalled, and the indicators suggest that there hasn’t been a significant acceleration this year. With the market improvements seen back in late 2013 now seemingly eroded, what are the signs on the road today?

Trade Growth Stalling

In some ways the signals are quite clear. The road has hardly been smooth for seaborne car trade in recent years. Volumes have yet to surpass the record level of an estimated 28.5m cars in 2007, with total trade in 2015 expected to total 26.7m cars. Trade fell by more than 30% in 2009, and while volumes have recovered to some extent, and increased by a helpful 4-6% per annum in 2011-13, growth in 2014 ground to a halt. Relocation of car production limited shipments from key Asian exporters, while imports into a number of key and emerging regions were affected by economic and political disruptions.

Similar trends have imposed a ‘speed limit’ on car trade growth this year, with volumes only on track to increase by around 1% in 2015. Strong car sales in the US and Europe have helped to drive some growth, but continued expansion of vehicle output close to major and developing demand centres, combined with economic difficulties significantly limiting imports into China, Brazil and Russia, has prevented further acceleration.

Down In A Low Gear

Meanwhile, growth in the PCC (Pure Car Carrier, including Pure Car & Truck Carrier) fleet has also decelerated in recent years, easing from 5% in capacity terms in 2013 to 2% in 2014. While the majority of car carriers operate under long-term agreements, the market is still impacted by supply and demand trends, and the slowdown in fleet growth appears, with demand looking lacklustre, to have been insufficient to prevent weaker fundamentals. Charter rates for a 6,500 ceu PCTC had improved in late 2013 and into 2014, topping $26,000/day in mid-2014. However they have since come under pressure and sentiment has become more negative during 2015.

Alternative Routes?

On the investment side, however, the indicators might be suggesting something else. Following limited ordering of new car carrier capacity in 2014, owners have put their foot down and in the first ten months of 2015 ordered units of 0.25m car equivalent capacity, more than in six of the last seven years. Replacement demand appears to have driven much of this, but there has been plenty of activity at the top end of the size range, so clearly some owners still think ‘big is beautiful’ and that the road ahead seems clear.

The Traffic Report

So, the car carrier sector may have hit a rather big jam. But down another road, there’s still plenty of traffic flow. Slow lane or fast, this all needs further examination, and each year, in our Car Carrier Trade & Transport report, we look at the trends in detail. This year’s report is available on the Shipping Intelligence Network now. Have a nice day.

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The car carrier sector has for some time been seen as one of the fastest growing parts of world shipping. Rapidly growing seaborne trade volumes have driven the requirement for a robustly expanding supply of vessels at the large end of the car carrier fleet. But it hasn’t always been a smooth ride, and today it’s not clear whether the sector has enough drive to remain in the fast lane.

In The Fast Lane

In the period from 1996 to 2007, seaborne trade in cars expanded from an estimated 8.1 million to 22.5 million units, growing by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7%. This compares very favourably to almost any other part of world seaborne trade. Overall seaborne trade registered a CAGR of 4.0% over the same period.

Fittingly for the car sector, there have been a range of drivers. New centres of car production have emerged (particularly in the developing world), broadening the global network of seaborne car transportation, in some cases extending the average haul as well as increasing trade volumes. Meanwhile, new car consumers have been generated by economic growth in developing economies, particularly in Asia. In China, for instance, European cars prove popular driving long-haul car trade. Since 1996 Asian car imports have expanded by an estimated 287% (and exports from Japan, Korea and China by 97%).

Brakes Off…And On

The PCC (Pure Car Carrier, including Pure Car & Truck Carrier) fleet has responded eagerly to the challenge. The fleet has grown from an overall capacity of 1.35m vehicles at end 1996 to 3.76m vehicles today, total expansion of 175%. Today, there are 768 car carriers in the fleet, and 569 of them have capacity of 4,000 cars or more (74% of the fleet) with another 62 on order (55 above 4,000 cars). The average vessel size has jumped from 3,380 car units at end 1996 to 6,810 today.

So far so good, until the downturn when seaborne car trade really suffered. Volumes fell by 35% in 2009 (compared to 4% for seaborne trade as a whole) as western car buyers pulled on the handbrake. Since then volume growth has not been quite so speedy. 2010 saw a partial bounceback but growth of 5-7% in 2011-13, has been followed by a projected 2% this year, on the back of relocation of production limiting export growth from key exporters, new tax legislation in importing regions, sluggish European recovery and political disruption in several emerging importer nations. This has left a question mark over when growth might get back into top gear.

The Road Ahead

Still, PCC capacity growth for the next few years looks fairly moderate with the orderbook standing at 11% of the fleet. Trade is provisionally projected to grow by 5% in 2015, making up for some of the shortfall this year. But the bigger question is whether we can expect trade growth to maintain the robust levels seen historically in the longer term. Perhaps the road ahead isn’t as clear as it once was? Each year, in our Car Carrier Trade & Transport report, we look at the trends in detail, and this year’s report will be available on Shipping Intelligence Network in the next few weeks. Have a nice day.

SIW 1150

SIW1102The car carrier sector has often been regarded as one of the industry’s good long-term bets. With healthy historical trade growth and a cargo likely to remain at the heart of consumer demand, projections have generally pointed towards the need for future investment. Here we examine the key trends; the latest edition of Car Carrier Trade & Transport, freshly available on Shipping Intelligence Network, provides the detail.

The Slow Road

Global seaborne car trade volumes grew by 179% between 1996 and 2008 (a robust 9% p.a. on average), while car carrier capacity expanded by 128%. However, in 2009 trade slumped dramatically (shrinking by 35% in the one year) and following a partial recovery of the lost volumes in 2010, trade growth since then has been more muted. This year it looks as if seaborne car trade will have risen by 3% (to 21.4 million units), well below the historical average, with the total still below the 2008 level. Full year imports to the EU are projected to be down 5% on 2012, and imports to North America up by just 3%.

Developing Nicely

So is the outlook still positive? Well, broadly yes. The growth expected from car buyers in the developing world has been coming through. Since 2008, shipments to developing economies in Asia (led by China) have increased by 70% and imports to Brazil and Argentina combined have grown by 53%. Between 2002 and 2013, car imports to regions outside the traditional major importers in North America and the EU have grown by 179%, whilst North American and EU imports in 2013 are at levels close to 2002 volumes. In 2013, non-North America/EU imports are expected to constitute 65% of sea-borne volumes compared to 39% in 2002 (see graph). With billions of consumers in developing countries keen to become car owners this trend looks set to bolster trade in the future.

Going The Distance

Equally significant is the fact that new centres of car production are emerging, helping diversify the route matrix. Shipments from out-side the EU, North America, Japan and Korea have grown by 13% since 2008, with Indian exports, for example, more than doubling in that time. In some cases the new producers are also further away from consumers, adding clear upside to ‘car-mile’ demand.

So, despite a subdued market today, there’s still a good story for car carriers. Demand fundamentals look robust, and even western world demand will also see some upside as the developed economies gradually move out of recession. In today’s fuel price environment, consumers there are likely to be keen to upgrade to more fuel efficient models. Car carrier capacity on order remains limited to 13% of the fleet, so if trade picks up then things could get quite tight fairly quickly, and investment will be needed to provide seaborne transportation for the cars of the future. Looking ahead, if you need a lift, try asking someone with a car, or maybe a car carrier! Have a nice day.