Archives for category: Yard

After a long cycle of build-up in capacity in the 2000s, shipyards hit a new peak in global output in 2010. Since then, the impact of reduced vessel ordering on shipbuilders worldwide has been a key issue for the industry, and it’s clear that global output has dropped significantly and shipyard capacity has diminished. But how far can those shipyards still active look ahead today?

Looking Forward

‘Forward cover’ is one basic indicator of the volume of work that shipyards have on order, calculated by dividing the total orderbook by the last year’s output (in CGT). Unsurprisingly, after a period of extremely low ordering in 2016, forward cover has shortened. Currently, global forward cover stands at 2.3 years having declined throughout 2016, as the orderbook shrank by 25% in CGT terms. Global forward cover was as low as 2.1 years at the start of 2013 (but delivery volumes in 2012 were 37% higher than in 2016) and peaked at 5.6 years in 2008.

Looking around the shipbuilding world, yards in Korea currently have the lowest level of cover at 1.5 years. European yards, meanwhile, bucked the trend in 2016, increasing their forward cover on the back of cruise ship orders (and falling production volumes) to 4.2 years.

Less To Go Round

Fewer fresh orders have also led to a greater number of yards ending the year without receiving a single contract. During 2005-08, the number of yards to take at least one order was on average equivalent to 87% of the number of yards active (with at least one unit on order) at the start of the year. In 2009-15, with ordering generally lower, the figure averaged 49%. In 2016 this fell further to 28%, with just 133 yards receiving an order. In China, 48 yards (26 of which were state-backed) won an order in 2016 compared to 284 yards in 2007. In Japan, 22 yards took an order in 2016 compared to 60 as recently as 2015. In Korea, 11 shipyards took an order last year.

Out Of Work?

Whilst many yards have tried to cope with the lower demand environment by slowing production or working outside their traditional product range, the statistics clearly point to huge challenges. In 2016, 117 yards delivered the final unit on their orderbook. The peak production level of these yards, many of them smaller builders, totals around 4m CGT. However, 163 yards are scheduled to deliver their current orderbook by the end of 2017 (although in reality slippage may mean some of the work runs on past the end of the year). Statistically, this represents 43% of the number of yards active at the start of the year. Although these yards have been reining back capacity and outputting less in recent years, the peak production level of this set of yards totals as much as 12m CGT. Offshore builders of course face huge pressures too, with about half of those active scheduled to deliver their final unit on order this year.

Global shipyard output and capacity have fallen significantly since the peak years. However, many remaining yards still don’t need to look too far ahead to see the end of their current workload. The shipbuilding industry will be hoping to see a return to a more active newbuilding market sooner rather than later.


In 2016 the shipping industry saw significant supply side adjustments in reaction to continued market pressures. For shipbuilders this meant a historically low level of newbuild demand with fewer than 500 orders reported in 2016, and the volume of tonnage on order declined sharply. Meanwhile, higher levels of delivery slippage and strong demolition saw fleet growth fall to its lowest level in over a decade.SIW1256

Pressure Building Up

2016 was an extremely challenging year for the shipbuilding industry. Contracting activity fell to its lowest level in over 20 years with just 480 orders reported, down 71% year-on-year. Domestic ordering proved important for many builder nations and 68% of orders in dwt terms reported at the top three shipbuilding nations were placed by domestic owners last year. Despite a 6% decline in newbuild price levels over 2016, few owners were tempted to order new ships, especially with the secondhand market offering ‘attractive’ opportunities. Only 48 bulkers and 46 offshore units were reported contracted globally last year, both record lows, and tanker and boxship ordering was limited. As a result, just 126 yards were reported to have won an order (1,000+ GT) in 2016, over 100 yards fewer than in 2015.

A Spot Of Relief

However, a record level of cruise ship and ferry ordering provided some positivity in 2016. Combined, these ship sectors accounted for 52% of last year’s $33.5bn estimated contract investment. European shipyards were clear beneficiaries, taking 3.4m CGT of orders in 2016, the second largest volume of orders behind Chinese shipbuilders’ 4.0m CGT. Year-on-year, contracting at European yards increased 31% in 2016 in terms of CGT while yards in China, Korea and Japan saw contract volumes fall by up to 90% year-on-year.

Further Down The Chain

In light of such weak ordering activity, the global orderbook declined by 29% over the course of 2016, reaching a 12 year low of 223.3m dwt at the start of January 2017. This is equivalent to 12% of the current world fleet. The number of yards reported to have a vessel of 1,000 GT or above on order has fallen from 931 yards back at the start of 2009 to a current total of 372 shipbuilders.

Final Link In The Chain

Adjustments to the supply side in response to challenging market conditions in 2016 have also been reflected in a slower pace of fleet growth. The world fleet currently totals 1,861.9m dwt, over 50% larger than at the start of 2009, but its growth rate slowed to 3.1% year-on-year in 2016. This compares to a CAGR of 5.9% between 2007 and 2016 and is the lowest pace of fleet expansion in over a decade. A significant uptick in the ‘non-delivery’ of the scheduled start year orderbook in 2016, rising to 41% in dwt terms, saw shipyard deliveries remain steady year-on-year at a reported 100.0m dwt. Further, strong demolition activity helped curb fleet growth in 2016 with 44.2m dwt reported sold for recycling, an increase of 14% year-on-year.

End Of The Chain?

So it seems that the ‘market mechanism’ has finally been kicking into action. A more modest pace of supply growth might be welcome news to the shipping industry but further down the chain shipbuilders are suffering. Contracting levels plummeted in 2016 and the orderbook is now significantly smaller. Even with the ongoing reductions in yard capacity, shipbuilders worldwide remain under severe pressure and will certainly be hoping for a more helpful reaction in 2017.

The level of ‘forward orderbook cover’ is one indicator of the state of global shipbuilding. When times are tough, yards can find the race for the limited amount of ‘cover’ available difficult, but when times are better ‘forward cover’ can seem very supportive. In the face of slowing ordering volumes, the shipbuilding industry might take a look at this indicator as part of its regular health check.

Medical History

‘Forward cover’ shown in the graph (see graph note for the exact calculation) reflects the number of years ‘work’ yards have on order at recent output levels. In the 1990s yards averaged 2.5 years cover but following the ordering boom of the mid-2000s forward cover rose to over 5 years. The onset of the global recession saw ordering levels decrease significantly and orderbook cover had dropped below 2.5 years by 2012. But with yard output having adjusted downwards, a pick-up in ordering in 2013 helped cover expand to 3.5 years. However, investment slowed again in 2014, instigating a downward trend, and by early 2015 orderbook cover had adjusted to around 3 years.

Chinese Check-Up

Chinese yards have seen the most dramatic reduction in forward cover. As capacity created to meet boom demand came online between 2009 and 2011, output doubled. But investment levels decreased, the orderbook declined, and China’s forward cover briefly fell below that of its competitors in Korea and Japan in 2012, as Chinese yards were not as able to attract the increased ordering in the more specialised sectors. However, cover has since increased as active capacity has adjusted downwards and Chinese yards have regained the majority share of orders, slowly diversifying their product mix. Although overall cover has returned to pre-boom levels (3.6 years today), the situation varies substantially. Whilst state owned yards and a handful of private yards have a strong orderbook cushion, the vast majority of smaller local yards have limited cover.

Offshore Emergency

South Korea and Japan did not expand shipyard capacity to the extent as China, and their industries are much more consolidated across fewer yards. As such their forward cover did not swing so dramatically. The largest Korean yards responded to the downturn in merchant vessel ordering by entering the high value offshore market (the ‘big three’ Korean yards grew their offshore orderbook to around two-thirds of the value of all units they had on order). Yet whilst this provided relief for yards in 2011 and 2012 the downturn in offshore ordering in 2014 has contributed to forward cover at Korean yards (2.7 years today) falling below that of Japanese yards (3.0 years) for the first time. Japanese yards have been slowly improving forward cover partly due to a revival in export ordering backed by the depreciation of the yen against the dollar.

Today, whilst a long way from boom time highs, ‘forward cover’ looks more comfortable than two years ago. However, that’s not the only part of the health check and global shipbuilding has been through a period of immense turmoil and financial pressure. Moreover, with output stabilising and ordering currently suppressed, builders could well be checking their orderbook cover closely once again.


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

As in the case of most areas of shipbuilding, the contracting boom of the mid-2000s allowed Chinese shipyards to gain market share in the OSV sector. Initially, however, this was limited to relatively simple units. More recently, Chinese yards have begun to construct more sophisticated vessels, with broader global appeal. At the same time, they have grown market share (53% of the OSV orderbook, versus 36% in 2008).

AHTS Demand Dries Up

Back in the boom years, although Chinese yards took many orders, the majority of these were from Asian owners for use in the benign waters of the East. Asian-designed ‘commodity’ AHTSs of around 5,150 bhp made up the bulk (55%) of these orders. Chinese yards were assisted in gaining a market share by
build-to-stock intermediaries, such as MAC, Coastal or Nam Cheong, which outsourced orders to Chinese yards with the prior intention of resale close to delivery. Meanwhile, European owners tended to restrict their ordering to established yards, for instance those in Norway, whose designs they knew and trusted.

In Asia, working for NOCs like Petronas, Pertamina and PTTEP, whose operations are mostly near-shore, these small OSVs could find a market. But both Chinese yards (keen to diversify their product mix) and Asian owners (keen to expand their business into new geographies) had an incentive to change approach.

PSV Purchasing

In an effort to climb the value chain, Chinese yards began to licence OSV designs from European companies, such as Rolls-Royce, or Ulstein for example. Subsequent ordering of such designs has been focussed on larger PSVs – in 2013, 82% of orders for Chinese built PSVs 4,000+ dwt had European designs. Demand for these vessels outpaced that for AHTSs, as more deepwater and far-from-shore fields entered development, with PSVs being the vessel of choice for these remote operations. The yards’ previous (Asian) clients transferred their attention to these vessel types, keen to gain a slice of the action in areas like the North Sea, or West Africa. At the same time, non-Asian owners were encouraged to order at yards now offering designs which they recognised, at prices 20-30% lower than those offered by European shipyards. Between the start of 2010 and 2014, China’s OSV orderbook rose nearly fivefold, to 382 units (53% market share).

Future Demand

Of course, the trend towards China can only last if the vessels which they deliver meet with acceptance in the Atlantic oil producing regions. However, the signs are encouraging, with Chinese built vessels making up a large proportion of deliveries into internationally operated areas (33% in 2013). Of all Asian-built PSVs with European designs currently active, around 30% are employed in West Africa, whilst 30% of PSVs >3,000 dwt are working in NW Europe.

This is an evolving situation, which will become clearer as the large PSV orderbook delivers. For the time being, however, Chinese yards look to have risen to the challenge of becoming builders of OSVs attractive for global operations.


In the early 1990s when shipping emerged in a fragile state from the traumas of the 1980s, raising finance was a problem. The shipping banks had taken a battering in the 1980s, and the US financial crisis had taken out the American banks. ‘Basel 1’ made getting a loan over $25m difficult, syndications were rare and the capital markets were unapproachable.

$200 Billion? No Way

Against this background, estimates that the shipping industry would need to raise $200 billion to finance investment during the 1990s seemed an impossible mountain to climb. In fact these estimates of future investment requirement, based on the need to replace the ageing fleet and allow for expansion of the key tanker, bulkcarrier and containership fleets, proved to be on the low side. During the decade investments in new ships added up to about $340 billion. And of course, miraculously, the money appeared. Syndications, club deals, capital market transactions, the German KG market and a few new banks filled the gap.

$1.4 Trillion? No Way

But history repeats itself and today the old problem of “where will the money come from?” is back on the agenda with a vengeance. This time the numbers are bigger. On our rough estimate, the cost of financing the shipping industry over the decade from 2014 to 2023 could be around $1.4 trillion. That’s a massive step up from the 90s (the chart shows investment from 1990 to 2013, with estimates to 2025). But the business has changed dramatically since the early 1990s when it was mostly about tankers, bulkcarriers and containerships. In the coming decade only half the investment (about $760 billion) is to finance the replacement and expansion of these core fleets.

New Investment Era

The other half consists of sectors which, in the early 1990s, had little impact (partly, perhaps, because there weren’t many statistics). Two market segments which look likely to generate a lot of value-added over the coming decade are LNG tankers and cruise ships. These are not newcomers; they have been around for years. But the changing world economy seems likely, in different ways, to boost investment in these segments very substantially, and together they account for about 20% of the projected investment.

The other big segment of potential investment for the shipyards is offshore. In the early 1990s that was, like the proverbial dodo, an extinct entity, with little business on offer. But the relentless pressure on energy supplies, both oil and gas, and the focus on mobile facilities, suggests this might account for as much as 30% of future shipyard investment.

Spend, Spend, Spend

So there you have it. Shipping needs the investment, but where will the money come from? Most analysts agree there’s a tidal wave of cash sloshing around the world, looking for a home with a good story. Unfortunately shipping’s financial story remains a bit patchy, but the reassuring lesson of the 1990s is that there’s always someone who will find a way to do the business. Who will it be this time? Well, that’s the trillion dollar question. Have a nice day.


In the classic movie The Seven-Year Itch, hero Richard Sherman is left sweltering in his Manhattan flat as wife and kids head for the beach. A daunting prospect, until Marilyn Monroe turns up in the flat below. That’s where the fantasy starts as Richard exercises his “seven-year itch” in an amusingly unlikely relationship with the charismatic Monroe.

Shipping’s Seven-Year Fantasy

2014 has been a hot summer in Europe and shipping investors have been getting the seven-year itch themselves. Although the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008 triggered the meltdown in rates, the seeds of the crash were sown exactly seven years ago on 10th August 2007. On that date the European banks became so suspicious of each other that the interbank market seized up. To celebrate, seven years later shipping investors are busy indulging their seven year itch with the residents of the flat below – not Monroe, but the equally attractive Asian shipyard representatives. 174m dwt of orders in 2013 and 66m in 1H 2014 show what a good time they’ve been having.

Cashing In At The Top

But how did the investors’ last big fling in August 2007 (273m dwt of orders were placed in full year 2007) turn out? Surely this was a bit of a disaster? Actually things did not turn out quite as badly as seemed likely when the market crashed. For example, a Suezmax resale costing $105m in August 2007 would have made around $57m trading since then, after OPEX (see chart). If this cash was used to pay down the vessel, the balance in August 2014 is $48m, compared with a market value of around $41m. Of course this does not take account of waiting, slow steaming and mishaps. But even allowing for these, it’s not the disastrous story veterans of the 1980s expected.

Off To A Good Start

Getting an investment off to a good start is vital and that’s what helped the 2007 investments shown in the chart. The accumulated cash flow of six August 2007 resale purchases shows that 50% of the cash was generated in the first year; 25-30% over the next 18 months; and very little in the last 4 years. For example the Cape generated only $6m between Dec 2010 and August 2014.

But the good news is that thanks to financial easing and near zero interest rates, residual values have remained firm. In 1985 a Panamax bulker delivered at a cost of $25m had a market value of around $8m. Today a Panamax bulk carrier ordered a couple of years ago at a cost of $29m has a resale value of $31m – it’s actually made money. So although the cashflow has been reminiscent of the 1980s, asset values this time round are a very different story.

7 Years On – Is the Cycle Over?

So there you have it. What looked like a disastrous shipping recession has turned out to be surprisingly benevolent, at least compared with the traumas of the 1980s. With shipyard credit available on a grand scale and not much in the secondhand market it’s a no-brainer – head east and you’ll find Marilyn standing over a subway ventilator. But don’t forget this is only a summer fantasy – the wife and kids will be back soon. Have a nice day.