Archives for posts with tag: LPG

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, better known as HSBC, for a number of years proudly claimed to be “the world’s local bank”. The shipping industry is well-known for keeping the wheels of the global trade turning, but, like the famous old bank, it could also be said to be the “world’s local” business too, integral to regional and local economic networks.

For the full version of this article, please go to Shipping Intelligence Network.

Back in the past the gas shipping sectors may have been considered relatively niche within the world of global shipping. However, in the last two decades they have been amongst the faster growing parts of the industry. This week’s Analysis takes a look at how shipping’s ‘coolest’ sector has grown in prominence to become part of the mainstream, and some of the ups and downs along the way.

Keeping Cool

Gas (LNG and LPG) shipping may once have been considered by some as a relatively niche part of global shipping, with the fleet and trade volumes dwarfed by other sectors. Even today, LNG and LPG carriers account for just 5% of total world fleet GT, and LNG and LPG trade accounted for just 3% of global seaborne volumes in 2015. However, following phases of rapid fleet growth, the combined gas carrier fleet now stands poised to top 100 million cbm of gas carrying capacity next year, more than double the size of the fleet at the end of 2007.

Gas Expands

Following expansion in LNG trade in the late 1990s, in the mid-2000s a glut of new export terminal sanctioning led to a surge in LNG carrier contracting, peaking at 10.9m cbm in 2004. This supported average fleet growth of 15% p.a. in the period 2000-08, to 40.3m cbm at the end of 2008. In comparison the LPG carrier fleet grew more steadily, though trade growth was supported by increased export volumes from the Middle East and Europe. Between 2000 and 2008, LPG carrier capacity increased from 13m cbm to 18m cbm, at an average rate of growth of 4% p.a. Across this period combined gas carrier capacity grew by an average of 10% p.a. to total 58.2m cbm by the end of 2008. However, after the economic downturn, sanctioning of liquefaction projects slowed, which limited LNG fleet growth, and growth in the LPG sector slowed too. Between 2008 and 2014, combined gas carrier fleet capacity grew by a much less rapid 6% p.a. on average, with even slower growth in 2011-12.

Powering On

Nevertheless, since the start of 2015 it has been full steam ahead for the gas carrier fleet. With LNG carrier ordering backed by the return to liquefaction terminal sanctioning in the 2010s and the vision of a cleaner energy future, and LPG carrier demand supported by the advent of fracking in the US and refinery capacity expansion elsewhere, 26.1m cbm of combined gas carrier capacity was ordered in 2013-15. This has supported rapid fleet growth in recent years and since the end of 2014, LPG carrier fleet capacity has grown by 32% and LNG carrier fleet capacity by 12%.

Mainstream Profile

So, the gas sector’s profile is fully in the mainstream today, and despite it’s relatively limited share of the world’s tonnage and global seaborne trade, in other ways it accounts for rather more weight. Gas carriers are complex, high value units; they account for 15% of the shipyard orderbook in CGT (shipyard work) terms today, and for an estimated value of $78bn, 9% of the world fleet total. And with a 20-year compound annual growth rate of 8% in combined capacity, and the 100 million cbm mark just around the corner, surely that’s one of modern shipping’s success stories? Have a nice day.

SIW1241 Graph of the Week

While the expanding role of Asia (especially China, see SIW 1132) in seaborne trade has grabbed headlines in recent years, developments in the US, still the world’s largest economy, have also had a significant impact. In a short space of time, changes in the US energy sector have dramatically altered global trading patterns in a number of commodities, significantly impacting the pattern of volume growth.

Putting On A Spurt Of Energy

For much of the last three decades, US oil production has been in decline, falling on average by 1% a year since 1980 to a low of 6.8m bpd in 2008. Yet technological advances have since led to huge gains in exploitation of ‘unconventional’ oil and gas shale reserves. In the space of just six years, the US managed to raise oil output alone by an astonishing 60% to almost 11m bpd, a new record.

Making An Oil Change

This has led to huge changes in US energy usage and import requirements. Crude oil imports have almost halved since 2005, and since 2010 have fallen on average by 11% p.a. to 260mt last year. Exports of crude oil from West Africa in particular have had to find a home elsewhere (unsurprisingly, many shipments now go East). Since US crude exports are still banned, US refiners have taken advantage of greater domestic crude supply to produce high volumes of oil products, especially for shipment to Latin America and Europe. Lower US oil demand since the economic downturn has also contributed, and seaborne product exports reached 120mt in 2013, up from 70mt in 2009. Alongside global shifts in the location of refinery capacity and oil demand growth, these trends have transformed seaborne oil trade patterns.

The impact could be similarly profound in the gas sector. As US imports of gas, mostly LNG, have dropped (on average by 34% per year since 2010), plans to add up to nearly 100mtpa of liquefaction capacity by 2020 could mean the US eventually emerges as a major LNG exporter, potentially accounting for 15% of global capacity (from 0.5% currently). Meanwhile, LPG shipments are continuing to accelerate strongly, rising by more than 60% y-o-y so far in 2014 to 6mt.

Miners Under Pressure

There has also been an impact in the dry bulk sector. Lower domestic gas prices have pushed the share of coal in US energy use to below 20%, leaving miners with excess coal supplies. US steam coal exports jumped to 48mt in 2012 from 11mt in 2009, contributing to lower global coal prices (cutting mining margins) and higher Asian import demand.

So What Next?

So the effects of the changing balance in the US energy sector have been far-reaching, and there remains scope for more shifts to occur as trade patterns continue to adjust to changes in commodity supply and prices. While the firm pace of expansion in US oil and gas output may start to slow, any change to existing export policies could have further impact. What is clear already, in terms of seaborne trade growth, is that the focus has shifted away from US imports, for decades a key driver of the expansion of global volumes, towards the country’s developing role as an energy exporter.


SIW1088As the end of the third quarter nears, it’s a good time to assess the progress of the shipping markets in the year to date. The Clarksea Index last week stood at $10,292/day, only $600/day off its end 2012 figure, despite a dip down as low as $7,500/day in February. Has this been a year of treading water?

What Are You Earning?

The answer is not really. The overall picture hides a range of differing trends across the various sectors of the market. The Graph of the Week shows the year-on-year change in earnings for a range of ship types, comparing the average for January-August 2013 against that for the first eight months of 2012. Spot earnings have been used where possible; elsewhere the shortest-term available period rate has been used instead.

What’s Up?

Supported by a recent rally, Capesize bulkers have seen the largest gains on a y-o-y basis, with average earnings reaching above $25,000/day last week. This is the third year in a row that late August has brought pre-Chinese Golden Week impetus to the Cape market, but Australian export growth, combined with lower deliveries (projected to be down c.40% this year) may also be starting to have an impact on the oversupply. Rates for smaller bulkers, however, are lower y-o-y, with heavy contracting in 2010 now affecting fleet expansion.

Wet Through

In tankers, it’s a story of two markets, with products earnings up on 2012, but those for crude tankers down. Crude demand has been hampered by the decline in US imports, combined with softer Chinese imports (just 5mbpd in August). Sentiment is more positive for products, however. Earnings for all sizes are up y-o-y (in the case of the MRs, by 60%) and general expectation seems to be for further improvement through the winter.

On the Gas

Spot earnings for LPG ships are little changed y-o-y. This, however, conceals more of a rollercoaster ride, where earnings have ranged from sub-breakeven levels in Q1 to above $50,000/day more recently. The containership market remains affected by the weakness of developed economies, which has required the cascading of larger boxships onto trades previously the home of charter market tonnage. This year rates have only ticked up marginally for some sizes.

Heading Off?

A number of traditional ship owners have looked to offshore as a way to avoid the shipping downturn. Rates for AHTS/PSVs and drill rigs have improved y-o-y (these are tracked in Offshore Intelligence Monthly). As offshore drilling continues to move to deeper waters, there could be further opportunities for canny investors.

So, although the Clarksea Index now seems marooned around $10,000/day, there have been serious fluctuations. Potential opportunities exist, both within the mainstream sectors, and in more niche areas. Have a nice day.