Archives for category: national fleet

Today’s Shipping Intelligence Weekly comes on the 896th anniversary of what was, back then, one of the most catastrophic losses to hit shipping for many years. On November 25th 1120, the sinking of the so-called White Ship off the French port of Barfleur killed the heir to the English throne and prompted a civil war between the forces of Matilda and Stephen. Fortunately, ships are safer today!

White Ship On The White List?

According to the historical record, the White Ship had been “recently-refitted”, although it seems unlikely that standards in the yards would have been on a par with the present system of special surveys. Today, the industry has an interlocking network of regulatory bodies dedicated to preventing casualties and losses. These include flag states, class societies, port state control bodies and others.

The loss of Prince William Adelin’s White Ship was blamed at the time on “excessive drunkenness and overcrowding” amongst the crew: not something that would be tolerated by today’s port authorities. Back to the 21st century, the Graph of the Week shows the number of total losses recorded by Clarksons Research by ship type. Over the long term, the trend is downward: 153 losses were registered in 1996, but only 51 have been recorded so far for 2015 (ships 100+ GT).

It is possible that a more systematic approach to safety and environmental monitoring has helped to ensure that only well-maintained ships put to sea. In 1996, the MoUs collectively performed just over 30,000 inspections, 9.6% of which resulted in a detention. By 2015, the number of inspections had risen to more than 80,000. But detention levels have consistently declined, to 3.5% of vessels inspected in 2015. The most likely explanation for this is that fewer vessels with deficiencies serious enough to warrant detention are being encountered.

The reduced trend in losses has been particularly marked since 2009, driven by fewer losses of small general cargo vessels. 1,817 general cargo vessels have been scrapped since the start of 2009. This has removed elderly breakbulk tonnage (which hung on in the boom) from the market, possibly reducing losses.

A Big Loss

Of course, although losses have become less frequent in numerical terms, a persistent fear for the industry is a high profile casualty (as the White Ship was). Analogous modern-day examples might include the Costa Concordia ($1.2bn salvage cost) or Rena ($0.7bn). The ability of salvage operators, hull & machinery insurers or P&I clubs to handle a larger loss of an ultra-large containership or cruise ship has been much debated.

Accidents Happen…

The grounding of the rig Transocean Winner off Scotland in August shows that even in the modern maritime world of the 21st century, vessels still get into difficulties. Fortunately, this was not a disaster: minimal oil was spilled, and the drilling unit was speedily salvaged. The indicators on the graph suggest that the industry may be becoming safer. In numerical terms, only 0.05% of the world fleet 100+ GT was lost in 2015, down from 0.26% back in 1996. These are positive signs, but, as much of the English government discovered aboard the White Ship, the sea always needs treating with respect. Have a nice day.


In the recent passing away of Muhammad Ali, the world lost perhaps its greatest ever heavyweight boxer. Amongst his many famous catchphrases was “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”. This week’s Analysis takes a look at something else that floats – the world’s major shipping fleets. How do the largest shipowning nations perform when it comes to punching above their weight?

Greeks Bearing Goods

SIW 1223 pointed out that Greek owners as a whole command a powerful ‘sting’ when one compares their share of the world fleet to their country’s share of global seaborne trade. Greek owners, the classic ‘cross-traders’, punch substantially above their weight, accounting for 16% of the tonnage (in GT terms) in the world fleet whilst Greece accounts for below 1% of world seaborne trade. And as a whole, the top 10 owner nations are highly potent, accounting for 70% of global tonnage, twice as much as their estimated share of world seaborne trade in tonnes (35%). Stinging like a bee indeed!

Heavy Hitters

Aside from the Greek owners, the top 10 contains a couple of other owner nations who hit particularly hard. In GT terms, Norwegian owners are the world’s seventh largest with about 4% of the fleet. This is about 8 times more than Norway’s share of world seaborne trade. Not far away, Danish owners (with one very prominent owner in particular) account for 3% of all tonnage, whilst Denmark accounts for less than 1% of trade.

Powerful Punchers

But these owner nations aren’t the only power punchers. A number of shipping’s other traditional big hitters also punch well above their weight. Japan accounts for 4% of world seaborne trade but as the second largest owner nation, 13% of the fleet (a ratio of 3.3). Meanwhile, German owners account for 8% of the fleet and Germany 2% of seaborne trade (a ratio of 3.8). Italian and Singaporean owners also seem to punch above the trading weight of their respective countries.

Down The Weights

But not everyone in the heavyweight division offers such a stinging punch. China, the ultimate trading powerhouse, accounts for 16% of seaborne trade, but despite being the world’s third largest owner nation, accounts for only 11% of the world fleet (a ratio of 0.7). The US accounts for 5% of world tonnage but 6% of trade (a ratio of 0.8), while South Korean owners only just punch their weight with 4% of the world fleet and Korea accounting for 4% of volumes.

Tale Of The Tape

Nevertheless, despite the fact that three of the world’s largest owner countries don’t hit too far above their weight, as a whole the top shipowning nations account for twice as much of global tonnage ownership as they do in terms of total world seaborne trade. The modern seaborne transportation system, the framework of asset ownership and the global nature of the shipping industry has afforded owning communities this opportunity. If you want to pick a fight in terms of ship ownership, be careful to watch out for the weight of the punch of your opponent! Have a nice day.


Readers of the Shipping Intelligence Weekly are invited each year to predict the value of the ClarkSea Index one year ahead in the first week of November. The predictions are always interesting, giving a good idea of how market watchers see the market developing. Furthermore, in many years the range of estimates has provided an insight into the optimistic nature of the participants.

Looking On The Bright Side?

The 2015 ClarkSea Index competition generated what initially appears to be a fairly bullish set of predictions compared to the actual value of $13,070/day on 6th November 2015. The average of the forecasts stood at $15,429/day, 18% above the actual index on the date in question, and around 80% of the entries exceeded the actual value. This suggests that participants were willing to look on the bright side, thinking that the markets might improve from the 2014 average of $11,743/day. But given the highly disappointing outcome in some sectors this year, were the predictions in reality way too positive?

A Mixed Bag Or Worse?

Well, the uptick in the ClarkSea Index in the third quarter of 2015 might help put this in perspective. The index exceeded $18,000/day in July, bolstered by ongoing strong earnings in the tanker and LPG sectors, and a slight increase in earnings in the bulkcarrier sector compared to the preceding months (although average bulker earnings were still at relatively low levels). If the index had remained at around the $18,000/day level recorded in July, just 18% of the competition entries would have ‘overestimated’ compared to the 80% based on the actual outcome.

The reality is that few might have guessed how the index developed as the year progressed. As the graph shows, the index recorded a notable increase in Q4 2014. In 2015, there was a similar rise in the third quarter, but the index has come off significantly since the peak of $18,383/day recorded in mid-July. The fall has largely been driven by weaker tanker earnings, as well as a return to lower bulker earnings and declining gas and, in particular, containership earnings.

Timing Can Be Everything

Moreover, the year to date average of the ClarkSea Index is up 29% y-o-y, possibly further justification for some of the optimism amongst the forecasters. In the first 45 weeks of the year, the ClarkSea Index averaged $14,610/day, just 5% below the average of the predictions received; 44% of guesses were in the $13,000-15,999/day range. So perhaps this optimism was not as misplaced as it appears at first glance. But timing is everything, and the participants who envisaged an improvement in the market failed to predict that the upside wouldn’t last.

We Still Have A Winner!

So, the progress of the ClarkSea Index has meant that the vast majority of predictions were below the actual value on 6th November. So maybe it doesn’t pay to be optimistic? Whether the case, every competition has a winner, and this year the winner was just $18 away from the actual outcome. Congratulations to Mr Jeffry Permana of PT Andhika Lines with a forecast of $13,052/day. Have a nice day Jeffry, your champagne is on its way.


Analysis of vessel ownership often focuses on the major shipowning countries. This week we take a closer look to reveal the top shipowning cities, and find that even though shipping is a global industry, ownership is fairly well concentrated in a relatively small number of major centres. These include both shipping’s usual suspects as well as some perhaps less obvious locations.

Living For The City

A few weeks ago it was reported that the mayor of Copenhagen wished to rebrand the neighbouring southern Swedish region of Skane as “Greater Copenhagen”. While some inhabitants of Malmo and the surrounding area might not be too keen, the story serves to highlight the role that cities play in providing the infrastructure, access to service providers and networking opportunities that influence where businesses choose to locate.

The 20 most popular city locations for shipowners are featured in this week’s graph. It is headed, perhaps unsurprisingly, by Athens, with a fleet of 4,043 vessels of 161.5m GT. This is equivalent to 14%, or one seventh, of the current world fleet. After Athens comes Tokyo, with 98.3m GT, and Hamburg with 70.5m GT. Singapore and Hong Kong complete the top 5. Overall, nine of the top 20 cities are in Europe, eight are in Asia and three are in the Americas.

Close For Comfort

The top 20 cities account for a total fleet of 765.5m GT, almost two thirds of world capacity. The top 10 cities account for over half, and the top 5 almost 40%. Shipping is one of the most global of all industries, with mobile assets that can theoretically operate (almost) anywhere in the world. So why do shipowners choose to locate themselves in a relatively small number of cities?

Many of the top locations are major ports or large cities in key trading nations, and would seem to be natural locations for shipowners. However, not all of the cities are ports or major cargo destinations, or at least have not been for some time.

What these cities often have in common are well developed networks of owners, charterers, sources of finance and other service providers. These can act as magnets for suppliers and clients, which in turn attract competitors leading to the emergence of large shipping centres. Most of these cities have a presence across a range of vessel types, though in some cases specialisms emerge, notable examples being Hamburg (containerships) and Oslo (gas, offshore), while some are boosted by the presence of a major owner in a particular sector.

Cities Of The Future

The share of the biggest cities looks like it will be maintained by deliveries over the next few years. The top 20 cities account for 63% of tonnage on order, with 4 of the top 5 also possessing the 4 biggest orderbooks. Further down the list, London, Hamilton and Monte Carlo look set to move up the ranking, each hosting public listed shipowners active in the newbuilding market over the past few years. Locations in emerging economies also perhaps offer clues to the future. So there you have it. Everybody likes to spend time with friends, and shipowners like to keep theirs close. Have a nice day!


In the hit Disney movie ‘Frozen’, Olaf is a snowman who lives in a world of cold but dreams of experiencing the heat of the summer. The shipping markets have been, in the main, fairly icy in the years since the economic downturn, but during that time shipping market investors have intermittently dreamt of sunnier times and turned up the heat, so how ‘frozen’ up has the shipping market really been?

Taking The Temperature

Like the eternal winter in the film, the shipping markets have been fairly iced up in recent years. The ClarkSea Index has traditionally been a good way of taking the temperature of industry earnings, measuring the performance of the key market sectors. Since Q4 2008 it has averaged $11,933/day, compared to $23,663/day in the period from the start of 2000 to the end of Q3 2008. However, earnings aren’t the only ‘hot thing’ in shipping. Investment in ships can blow hot and cold, and funds invested in newbuild and secondhand tonnage give an idea of the ‘heat’ generated by investors. To take this into account, the analysis here has created the ‘Shipping Heat Index’, which reflects not only vessel earnings but also the level of investment activity.

Generating Some Heat

The graph shows quarterly ‘Earnings’ and ‘Heat’ indices together, and illustrates a number of points. Firstly it shows that in the post-recession period (relative to the average before the downturn) the ‘Shipping Heat Index’ has stood at a higher level (an average 63% of pre-recession ‘heat’) than the ‘Earnings Index’ (an average of 50% of pre-recession levels). Whatever the state of the markets, shipping investors have dreamt of greater warmth and invested in capacity, often attracted by counter-cyclical opportunities at historically low prices, or the perceived benefits of new ‘eco’ tonnage.

Twin Peaks

Secondly, it is clear that the ‘Shipping Heat Index’ has had two discernable peak periods in the post-recession era. In 2010 and early 2011 it stood well above the ‘Earnings Index’, peaking at 95 in Q1 2010 compared to the latter’s 67. It did the same in 2013 and 1H 2014, peaking at 89 in Q4 2013 (compared to 56). In these periods investment in capacity surged, with investors generating heat even if earnings looked a bit more frosty.

Freezing Up

Thirdly, in Q4 2014 the relative position of the two indices has switched for the first time since Q4 2008. The Q4 value of the ‘Shipping Heat Index’ stood at 53 with the ‘Earnings Index’ at 59. The ClarkSea Index topped $16,000/day in November, with tanker earnings surging and gas carriers still performing strongly. Meanwhile, the investment scene has frozen up a little, with newbuild ordering now a lot slower than in 2013 and early 2014.

Don’t Melt!

So, even when shipping markets appear ‘frozen’, investors can still generate ‘heat’, and even in icy conditions snowmen dream of summer. With earnings rising, dreamers might be tempted again next year. The only danger is that too much heat can lead to a spot of melting if you’re not careful! Merry Christmas.

SIW 1152

With the holiday season almost upon us, deliveries of many types are the focus of attention. In shipping, deliveries into the world fleet peaked a few years ago, and then the rate of capacity delivered from the world’s shipyards went on the slide. At some point this should have started to stabilize but, with output often fairly volatile from month to month, it needs some work to identify when.

Peaking Deliveries

In the years 2006-08 an unprecedented total of 646m dwt of vessel capacity was ordered at the world’s shipyards. Although, following the economic downturn, the delivery of some of this was delayed or cancelled, capacity delivered rose substantially in the years 2010 to 2012, and peaked on an annual basis in 2011 at 166m dwt (on a monthly basis, 12-month moving average deliveries peaked at 14.8m dwt in June 2012). Inevitably, following the downturn, a slowdown in ordering occurred, and after the peak in output deliveries started to slide. The question was how long would the slide in deliveries last, and how quickly would surplus building capacity exit the arena?

Sliding Then Flattening

Monthly delivery data provides some of the answer. Although this can be volatile, the 12-month moving average (a metric showing the average monthly output over the last 12 months) gives an idea of ‘annual’ output capacity at any point in time. The graph shows that this had dropped to 12.8m dwt by January 2013 and then to 10.1m dwt by July 2013. By January 2014, the 12-month moving average had reached 8.6m dwt, down 42% from the peak. Shipyard output, in dwt terms at least, had slowed perhaps more quickly than many had imagined.

But, has the rate of output stabilized since then? The graph suggests yes. In April 2014, the 12-month moving average reached 8.0m dwt, and since then has remained in a fairly narrow range between 8.0m and 7.4m dwt. Clearly the rate of output has flattened. The full year delivery forecast for 2014 stands at 7.8m dwt per month, with a not too dissimilar figure currently projected for 2015.

Covering Up

Meanwhile, the line on the graph highlights an interesting side effect. As deliveries have slowed, and the orderbook has started to grow again (at 316m dwt, it is today 18% larger than at start 2013), the orderbook expressed as years of ‘cover’ in terms of the 12-month moving average rate of deliveries has increased significantly, moving from 2.2 years in July 2013 to 3.5 years today. Not quite the 4.4 years seen in 2010, but substantially more cover than the 1.7 years when deliveries went on the slide in 2012.

Onward, Upward?

So, it looks like deliveries have stabilised, and this perhaps came around a little more quickly than some expected. Moreover, whilst the environment today is still challenging for yards, a side effect of the slowdown in output has been an increase in the level of cover. When output starts to increase again is open to question, but today’s orderbook for 2015 delivery (135.1m dwt) is a little bigger than that for 2014 delivery at the start of this year (133.8m dwt), so watch this space.

SIW 1150

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