Archives for posts with tag: financial crisis

“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

The volatility of the shipping markets has always presented opportunities and pitfalls for investors (see SIW 1210). Getting the timing right is key, and newbuilding decisions can prove especially difficult given the need to look further forwards into the future – always a tricky task. The challenging state of many shipping markets suggests that owners have struggled to find the right balance when planning ahead.

Changeable Winds

Accurately forecasting future shipping market developments is clearly fraught with difficulties. Owners making newbuild investments may be renewing their fleets, or building for dedicated business, but for those ordering more speculatively, the investment might reflect expectations of future demand and market conditions.

These trends are hard to predict. Economic and political developments, amongst many others, can shift quickly and change trade patterns. Combined with supply factors such as newbuild pricing or finance availability, it is easy to see how the volume of tonnage ordered can be misaligned with the requirement.

Clouds Gathering

Comparing historical contracting to the volume of ‘required’ deliveries shows that investment has frequently ‘overshot’ the need for additional ships. In 2003 for example, global contracting totalled 117m dwt. Assuming that these ships take two years to be delivered, trends in 2005 could indicate whether this level of ordering was lower than or surplus to requirement. Global demolition totalled 6m dwt in 2005, and world seaborne trade grew by 4.5%, which based on estimated fleet productivity in 2003, could have required an extra 42m dwt of tonnage to transport. So ordering in 2003 may have been 70m dwt greater than the estimated volume of deliveries needed in 2005. The surplus was even greater in 2007, when 275m dwt was ordered, but with seaborne trade dropping by 3.7% in 2009, there was no ‘requirement’ for any additional tonnage to be delivered that year.

Gusts From The East

Since 2000, more years than not have seen ‘excess’ ships ordered. After the financial crisis hit, surplus capacity led to weaker markets and changes in productivity, such as slow steaming. Ordering in 2009-12 was closer to estimated ‘requirement’, but surged to 178m dwt in 2013, with hope in some sectors that the bottom of the cycle had been reached.

Yet 2015 saw seaborne trade growth slow to 2.1%, led by trends in China. With 39m dwt scrapped in 2015, and an estimated 36m dwt needed to ship the additional trade volumes, ordering in 2013 could have ‘overshot’ by 100m dwt, exerting further supply pressures.

An Unsettled Climate

The story clearly varies across sectors, but shipping investors seem an optimistic bunch, and are now being let down by underperformance of seaborne trade. At times, this optimism has raised demand for shipyard capacity, but has still created a surplus, with lower ordering in 2014-15 still possibly excess to requirement based on current projections. In such a changeable climate as shipping, it’s clear that checking the forecast is vital, but it seems that getting a clear view ahead is hard.

SIW1211

When the shipping market boom of the 2000s came to an abrupt end with the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008, vessel earnings underwent a severe and well-documented downturn. Almost six years on, it may seem there have been ups and downs since then, but for the shipping markets as a whole, to what extent has this been the case?

Cashflow Crunch

Since the onset of the downturn in Q4 2008, although residual asset values have survived relatively well (see the analysis in SIW 1134), vessel cashflow has struggled. The graph makes this clear, showing the quarterly average of the Clarksea Index since the start of 2007. Following the huge recalibration of earnings in late 2008, the average of the ClarkSea Index in Q1 2009 stood at $11,516/day. After five and a half years of painful downturn, in Q3 2014 (to 22 Aug), the average was $10,900/day, just 5% different. Are we back to square one?

Well, although it is the case that there have been some interesting moves in the markets since end 2008, the average value of the Clarksea Index has moved within a quite narrow band. The quarterly average of the index peaked $5,522/day above the ‘post-downturn’ average (since end 2008) and has dipped as far as $3,078/day below the average. Across this period, the average divergence of the quarterly average from the post-downturn average has been just $1,864/day, with 14 of the 23 quarters seeing the index within $2,000/day of the average ‘line’.

Bouncing Up (And Down)

The post-downturn period can be split into phases. In Phase 1, late 2009 through to mid-2011 the index ‘bounced’ from its post-crash trough on the back of Chinese government stimulus driving the bulk markets and the rapid reactivation of boxships idle in the immediate aftermath of the downturn. During this phase the quarterly index averaged 19% ‘above the line’. But in the face of hefty supply side growth it wasn’t to last and during Phase 2 (2012 and 1H 2013) the gains ebbed away and the quarterly index remained resolutely between $8,623 and $10,767/day, averaging 20% ‘below the line’.

Great Expectations?

Phase 3 in 2H 2013 was relatively short-lived. Big bulkers and tankers staged a rally in late 2013, a year in which investors seemed to have started to scent the bottom of the market (leading to 2,818 new ship orders in all, up from 1,506 in 2012). In Q4 13 and Q1 14 the quarterly index values were ‘above the line’ by $1,089/day (9%) on average.

Still At Square One (Or Not?)

But in Q2 and Q3 14 the index averaged 12% ‘below the line’, and has now moved within a $4,650/day range for the last 15 quarters. On 22 August the index stood at $11,249/day, more or less where it was in Q1 2009. Analysts point to improving fundamentals, and some sectors are seeing traction, but in overall terms we’re still waiting for take off from market conditions too close to subsistence for many. Despite resilient asset prices, helped by itchy investors and low interest rates, industry cash flow has remained within a narrow band for the last six years. Here’s hoping for a lucky number 7!

SIW1136

Like the big dipper at a fun fair, the shipping industry has its share of ups and downs. After a thrilling start to the century, rapid fleet growth and the financial crisis dampened the market. However, we are now seeing signs of a better balance between fleet expansion and trade growth.

All Aboard

The shipping rollercoaster has plenty of ups and downs, and one of the best ways of keeping track of the twists and turns is by looking at the balance between the growth in seaborne trade and growth in the fleet.

The Graph of the Week shows the development of fleet growth and trade over the most recent two 8-year periods. During the first phase (1999-2006 inclusive), fleet and trade growth broadly tracked each other, resulting in a competitive and, at times, prosperous market.

Trade growth started strongly at the turn of the century, prompting a “mini-boom” and giving shipping’s thrill-seekers a taste of things to come. After a couple of slower years in 2001-02 in the wake of the “dot-com crisis”, trade growth recovered and achieved a CAGR of 4.6% for the period as a whole. At the same time the fleet grew at 4.2% per annum – tracking demand growth but not exceeding it. The tight market conditions that characterised this first cycle of the century drove the shipping market to incredibly firm levels and, for some, the thrill of a lifetime.

Hold On Tight

During the second 8-year phase (2007-2014 inclusive) fleet growth has surged ahead of trade. For the first couple of years the market was strong enough to absorb the large number of new deliveries coming out of a rapidly expanding shipbuilding sector. However, in the wake of the global financial crisis, consistently higher fleet growth resulted in much weaker market conditions.
In 2009 global seaborne trade fell by 4.0%, compared to fleet growth of 7.1%. Trade made up some lost ground in 2010 when it grew by 9.6%, but with fleet growth hitting 9.5% that year and 8.8% in 2011, trade growth was unable to keep pace. Over the past 8 years as a whole, the fleet has grown by a CAGR of 6.5%, compared with trade growth of 3.5%.

Here We Go Again

Over the past two years deliveries have eased enough for fleet growth to fall back below 4% pa, and in 2014 trade growth is expected to exceed fleet growth for just the second time in over a decade (the other time being 2010 when trade was recovering from the financial crisis). As a result shipping markets are relatively tighter and faster to react to localised demand/supply imbalances. The last 9 months have seen spikes in bulker, tanker and gas carrier rates which have encouraged renewed interest in tonnage acquisition (both secondhand and more efficient newbuilds) and capital markets.

So the 21st century so far has been a breathless ride. There have been long, slow climbs and the occasional sharp drop, but many enjoy the thrill of the ride and want to get straight back on. Shall we go again? Have a fun day.

SIW1124