Archives for category: Scrap

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.

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A sustained period of low oil prices has created a shortfall in offshore support vessel (OSV) demand, at a time when the sector has displayed rapid fleet expansion. Charter rates have fallen significantly, whilst the number of inactive vessels has reached record levels in some regions. An increase in vessel scrapping would seem to be an obvious solution to this problem, so why hasn’t this been the case so far?

Mirror The MODU Model?

OSV demand has fallen – at least 11% of the total fleet was laid up at start September. So far in 2015, 23 removals have been recorded from the OSV fleet (18 AHTS/AHT and 5 PSV/Supply vessels). For AHTS/AHTs this is a 29% increase on 2014 on an annualised basis. PSV removals, however, are down by 46%. In either case, the number of removals seems below what might be expected given the challenging market conditions.

For the AHTS sector in particular, rig moves provide an invaluable source of demand – a decrease in utilisation for these units has not been surprising given the sharp fall in E&P expenditure following the drop in oil prices. Oversupply is also a significant issue for the MODU market. However, the reaction from owners in that sector has been very different, as is evident from a net decrease of 15 units from the fleet so far in 2015.

The decrease in MODU numbers has been achieved in two ways. Firstly, by reducing the number of existing units – removals are currently up by 94% in 2015 on an annualised basis, already surpassing the record number of removals recorded for any full year. Secondly, the addition of newbuilds has been restricted, with the number of deliveries down by 39% in annualised terms in 2015.

Short-Term Gains

A likely reason for the low uptake in OSV removals relative to the MODU sector is that there is comparatively more value in scrapping rigs (in particular, floaters), compared to OSVs, on account of their larger size and steel content. Furthermore, it is relatively easy and cost-effective to lay-up or stack OSVs, which has been the preferred option for owners – at least 340 AHTSs and 254 PSVs are estimated to be laid up, although in reality this number may be even greater. Similarly, the sale of vessels for use in other sectors (e.g. utility support) provides some means of reducing active vessel numbers, although sales activity for OSVs in 2015 is currently down by 25% on an annualised basis.

However, whilst stacking of OSVs provides some respite for owners during times of oversupply, it can only be considered a short-term solution – especially given the size of the current OSV orderbook: the number of OSVs on order is equivalent to 11% of the active fleet and, although some slippage is expected, 293 units are slated for delivery by end 2015.

Long-Term Woes

The OSV dayrate index has fallen by 27% since the start of 2015 and, with no significant upturn in oil prices looking likely, pressures seem set to continue. Fleet growth stands at 2.3% y-o-y, and the issue of OSV oversupply is expected to remain significant. Against this background, the discussion of removals is likely to be ongoing theme.

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In the initial aftermath of the world economic downturn, global vessel demolition hit 33m dwt in 2009, followed by 28m dwt in 2010 and 43m dwt in 2011. In 2012, sales for scrap peaked at 58m dwt, and then totalled 47m dwt in 2013. At such elevated levels, compared to the annual average of 18m dwt in the 2000s, it’s worth considering how high a total might be maintained in the years ahead.

Downturn Upturn

In the first 8 months of 2014, robust levels of demolition have continued, with total sales for scrap amounting to 23.5m dwt, including 10.0m dwt of bulkers and 6.4m dwt of tankers. As the graph shows, the average age of vessels sold for scrap in the year to date stands at 27.5 years, having fallen from around 30 years in the period 2009-11 when the weak earnings environment took hold and encouraged the clear out of old ‘surplus’ tonnage.

However, with many of the units demolished coming from the larger, volume sectors where scrapping ages have generally been younger (the average age of demolition of VLCCs and Capesizes this year has been 21.0 and 24.1 years respectively), the average age of dwt capacity demolished has been lower than the average by ship number, standing at 24.7 this year.

High Profile?

Weak market conditions have ensured that owners have continued to scrap older tonnage, but, with markets by nature cyclical, to what extent could the elevated level of demolition continue in the future? Well, whilst it provides no guarantee of scrapping levels, the age profile of the fleet remains a useful indicator. In reality, market conditions, costs and timings of special surveys, and steel scrap market conditions help determine owners’ decisions, and in today’s environment fuel efficiency and regulatory concerns also play a key role. Nevertheless, the profile of fleet capacity hitting ‘average’ scrapping age gives a hint as to the direction of future demolition levels.

Help From The Aged

The graph shows historical scrapping and capacity set to reach 25 years old each year. There’s also a long ‘tail’ of capacity older than 25 years (103m dwt built pre-1989), and the graph includes a share each year. This adds up to an indicator of ‘scrap candidate capacity’. In 2017, when today’s 22 year old capacity hits 25, it reaches 23m dwt and by 2020 it is up to 35m dwt. Not all sectors have the same age profile, and many ships have a longer life than 25 years, but no doubt some younger tonnage will be scrapped too. What is clear is that more capacity was delivered in the mid-to-late 1990s than in the early 1990s and late 1980s, and this will drive scrapping at some point.

On The Level?

So, the big slump led to elevated levels of scrapping that the flattish deliveries of the 1980s and 1990s initially suggested it would be hard to maintain. However, scrapping has rolled on robustly, and the fleet’s age profile suggests that, in a few years, it may be easier to reach similar levels. Market conditions will mean that actual volumes move in cycles, but particularly with fuel and regulatory agendas to the fore, accelerated levels of demolition might become more common.

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