Archives for posts with tag: bulkcarrier

“Going where the work is” has been a familiar mantra for many generations across the world, and the shipping industry is no different. Indeed, much of the world’s oil tanker and bulker fleet will be familiar with the sentiments of Simon and Garfunkel, wishing they were “homeward bound” but rarely getting “home where the music’s playing” as “every stop is neatly planned”!

Far And Wide…

Our analysis this week looks at the top shipowning nations and the trading patterns of their fleets, using data from our World Fleet Register and our vessel tracking system, Clarksons SeaNet. This analysis is based on the port calls and movements of the oil tanker and bulkcarrier fleet only (the “bulk fleet”); we will be taking a closer look at containership deployment in a future edition of Shipping Intelligence Weekly.

“Cross-Traders”…

Of the top ten owning nations, Greece, Norway, Italy and Denmark come out as the classic “cross-traders”. Ships owned by Europeans call at their “domestic” ports less than 15% of the time and rely heavily on trade routes involving Asia-Pacific countries. For nations like Greece (9% domestic port calls) this is a long-standing feature, achieving its number one shipowning status despite a global GDP ranking of 50 and a bulk seaborne trade rank of 47. The countries which Greek owned ships call at most often are China (14% by tonnage, 11% by number) and then the US (12%). Indeed for European owners generally, maintaining their share of global tonnage at an impressive 42% for the bulk fleet (45% for all ships) has come despite Atlantic trade stagnating at 3bn tonnes in the past fifteen years, while Pacific trade has more than doubled (to 8bn tonnes), a dramatic relative increase in trading outside Europe.

Sticking Close To Home…

At the other extreme, the Chinese and Japanese fleets come out with over 50% of calls at domestic ports, while the South Korean fleet sits at 38% (note the analysis includes some bunkering calls, notably at Singapore, but also elsewhere). Although China continues to be well serviced by international owners, its position as the world’s largest importer (25% of “bulk” cargo), second largest economy and number one seaborne trading nation means that 74% of Chinese fleet port calls are at domestic ports. In fact, 46% of total bulk Chinese port calls by tonnage (55% in numbers) are by domestic owned vessels, 24% by European owned ships and 24% by other Asian owned units. The growth of the Chinese bulk fleet (70% since the financial crisis) has begun to catch up with bulk trade growth (81%) but still lags significantly over a fifteen-year horizon (104% compared to 399% growth). Meanwhile, the US fleet comes in with 41% domestic port calls; this includes a large proportion of Great Lakes calls and Jones Act vessels.

500 Miles, 500 More…

So shipping is truly an industry that must go far and wide to find work. For European owners this is often a lot further than the “500 miles, 500 more” that Scottish brothers The Proclaimers sing, while for Asian owners their ships are more likely to be “Homeward Bound”. Have a nice day and safe travels home.

SIW1278

Shipping is a cyclical business. For many years, Clarksons Research has tracked the ups and downs of its cycles via the ClarkSea Index, a weighted average of vessel earnings in the main shipping sectors.  In the first half of August, the index averaged less than $7,500/day, around 60% down on July 2015’s ‘mini-peak’, with most sectors having weakened. But how long should one expect a downturn to last?

Tired…

As summer 2016 has progressed, owners could be forgiven an element of downturn fatigue. Average bulkcarrier earnings from January to July 2016 were 21% down year-on-year, whilst the equivalent containership index fell by 37%. Average weighted LPG carrier earnings lost 49%. Even the tanker sector, which had been buoyed by lower oil prices stimulating demand, was down by 35% in terms of its component element of the ClarkSea Index. Both crude and product tanker earnings levels have softened over the course of Q2 2016.

Nor is the decline restricted to the major sectors. Offshore drilling rig dayrates are down by a further 30% or so year-on-year, and OSV term rates about the same amount. LNG carrier spot charter rates are 24% lower. Multi-purpose vessel charter rates have also come under further pressure. Amongst the few areas to have shown signs of improvement have been the ro-ro and ferry markets, but these are far from volume sectors.

…Crotchety…

So, the industry is undergoing a downturn, and it would be reasonable to ask: how long might the pain last for? Clearly, there are external macro-economic factors, such as the policies of the Chinese state, actions by OPEC or the effects of the Brexit decision, which might have specific influences on the future. However, perhaps past cycles could provide an indication. As the graph shows, the progress of the current weaker market has followed the trend of some previous downward moves – with the clear exception of the 2008-09 crash.

…And Emotional

The graph shows that, over the last 25 years, major downward movements in the ClarkSea Index have tended to begin to be reversed around a year to eighteen months after they began. Of course, the picture is complicated by seasonal factors. Additionally, a “dead-cat bounce” is also never off the cards: for example, the first signs of recovery in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. This improvement, between the one and two year marks on the graph, was quickly snuffed out, partly by the heavy ordering of bulkcarriers, helping to prevent a continued recovery along a similar trajectory to previous cycles.

In 2016, the market has probably learnt this lesson, with newbuild ordering numbers lower than at any point in the last two decades. Other actions are also being taken to try to turn the market balance around: ‘non-delivery’ of newbuild tonnage in the first seven months stands at 45%, whilst owners scrapped 30.2m dwt, 33% up when annualised with potential to get close to the record of 58.4m dwt set in 2012. So, it is possible that the index may follow previous trends, and begin to reverse course. But as well as a more controlled supply side, short-term demand will also help determine whether the market stalls, or can embark on the road to recovery. Have a nice holiday.

SIW1235 Graph of the Week

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” – at least that’s what Billy Ocean’s number one hit told us in 1986. Well, there’s no escaping that the dry bulk markets are in a tough place at the moment. Owners have responded by selling more, and younger, vessels for demolition, but just how tough have they been so far, and how tough might they get?

…The Tough Get Going

The first 3 months of 2016 are shaping up to be the biggest quarter on record for bulkcarrier demolition. In the first 9 weeks of the year, 120 bulkcarriers of 10.1m dwt have been reported sold, a pace that, if continued, will see the current record of 10.9m dwt set in Q2 2015 surpassed. Such high levels of demolition clearly reflect the depressed state of the bulkcarrier market in 2016 so far. This week’s graph highlights previous occasions when low freight rates have led bulkcarrier owners to get tough with older vessels.

When The Going Gets Rough…

The first period of sustained high demolition was in the mid-1980s, with activity peaking at 12.3m dwt in 1986 – equivalent to 6.2% of the total start-year fleet. In the same year average scrapping ages plummeted to 18.8 years – that was tough! The second major phase of demolition occurred through the second half of the 1990s and into the first half of the 2000s. Peak demolition levels were similar to those seen in the mid-1980s, with 12.3m dwt leaving the fleet in 1998. But fleet growth in the intervening period meant that this accounted for just 4.6% of the fleet at the start of the year. Average scrapping ages dipped slightly, but remained above 25 years.

So how tough are things now? In terms of tonnage leaving the fleet, the current phase is by far the most extensive. 2012 was the biggest year on record for bulker demolition with 33.4m dwt heading to the breakers. However, rapid fleet expansion over the past decade means that this accounted for 5.4% of the start-year fleet, slightly below the level seen when Billy Ocean was having hit records 30 years ago. The first half of 2015 and the start of 2016 have been very active periods, but these high volumes will need to be maintained in order for the annual demolition-to-fleet ratio highlighted in the graph to return to the levels of the mid-1980s.

…The Tough Get Rough

How much tougher can owners get? The average scrapping age for bulkcarriers has fallen from 33 years in 2007 to 24 years so far this year, and market conditions are such that vessels built in the 2000s are now candidates for recycling (a total of 10 such Capesizes and Panamaxes have been sold since the start of last year). So it’s clear that owners are getting tougher, even if there might still be some way to go.

There are still 57.8 dwt of bulkcarriers in the fleet aged 20 years or over, including 108 Capesizes and 166 Panamaxes. So despite a predominantly young age profile (see SIW 1209), there are plenty of potential demolition candidates in the fleet. The dry bulk market has bounced back from tough times in the past. For those prepared to “tough it out”, further demolition could help the market return to better times. Have a nice day!

SIW1212

SIW1094This page recently took a look at surplus in the bulkcarrier sector, and how it was impacted by the ‘right’ speed for the market environment. In the containership sector, there also remains a significant level of surplus capacity, and here, if anything, speed is playing an even more critical role.

Surplus Capacity

In 2009 container trade experienced its first real major downturn, dropping by 9%. This created a huge surplus of capacity in a short period of time, which the containership sector has been struggling with ever since. The graph shows an estimate for the size of the ‘surplus’, calculated by assuming the vessel productivity at levels around those of 2000 when the market appeared to be close to equilibrium. At those speeds, the surplus by end 2009 appeared to reach about 2.6 million TEU of capacity (17% of all container capable capacity). This compares to a deficit of just 0.5m TEU in 2005 which drove record charter market levels.

Idle Hands

So, the liner companies who operate the container services were left with a mighty headache. Their immediate response was to ‘idle’ as much capacity as possible in an attempt to prop up the market balance and support freight rates. By end 2009 1.5m TEU was idled though this figure has since dropped. This eventually helped the liners but did no favours to the charter owners who found it impossible to bid vessel charter rates back up with a huge pool of laid up capacity free for charterers to choose from.

Speedy Remedy

But perhaps the more durable response has been slow steaming. At the speeds many containerships were operating before the downturn (some running as fast as 24 knots), this was an obvious move. Liner companies quickly added extra ships to services whilst dropping speeds. This maintained service schedules, but also absorbed capacity and reduced overall costs through lower bunker expenditures. By end 2012, calculations suggest that 1.6m TEU was being absorbed by slow steaming.

How Much Left?

With idling and slow steaming in play, the surplus is much reduced. A projected end 2013 surplus of 3.0m TEU drops to a ‘current’ surplus of 0.7m TEU when allowances are made for 1.9m TEU now absorbed by slow steaming and the 0.4m TEU still idle. Of course, if the services sped up again, that would release lots of capacity but the key determining factor for containership speeds is today’s high fuel price environment, and the previously high speeds continue to make no sense to operators.

So, the remaining surplus plus idle capacity is 1.1m TEU, and that’s about a third of its potential level at pre-recession speeds. That’s the good news. The bad news is that trade still has some way to go to outperform supply by enough to close the gap. We still need the world’s consumers to generate demand for more containerised cargo. Have a nice day, and don’t forget your shopping!