Archives for posts with tag: VLCC

The last few years have marked a particularly challenging period for the shipbuilding industry, with contracting activity generally remaining limited and many yards facing difficulties. However, focusing on those builders which have been able to take contracts reveals one interesting angle, with the volume of orders per yard heading upwards, driven by both longer term trends and more recent changes.

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

In an industry as volatile as shipping, having the right ship at the right time can bring significant rewards, but the other end of the cycle can be deeply painful. As any surfer knows, to ride the waves good timing is vital, but notoriously tricky. For shipowners, tracking movements is also key; assessing the markets is paramount but carefully watching how the cost base is changing is clearly important too…

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

 

It’s the time of year, with the school holidays and end of term approaching, that many pupils will nervously take home their school reports to anxious parents. With the spread of challenges facing the industry, it’s unlikely the shipping markets would achieve many top grades. However some sectors might still achieve an “A” for effort and this week’s analysis reviews the markets’ performance in the first half.

Must Do Better!

Our Graph of the Week compares performance in the first half of 2016 to the averages since the financial crisis, as a barometer of performance against trend. First on the graph is the ClarkSea Index, our average earnings index covering all major sectors, which is 18% down on the average since 2009 and 30% compared to 1H 2015. The index actually finished the mid-year at just $8,575/day, close to its all time low of $7,444/day. Clearly room for improvement.

Heading For Re-Sits?

With widely reported historical lows in the bulker sector in the first half, Capes averaged below $5,000/day in 1H 2016, some 76% below the average since 2009. Containerships fared little better, slumping to 54% below trend while offshore rates were also almost 50% down on trend and generally hovering around OPEX levels. The prevalence of lay-up and stacking makes offshore arguably the most challenged sector at present. LPG rates also moved below trend, with VLGCs averaging $32,000/day, albeit following their stellar performance of 2015. Meanwhile trade is heading towards more muted growth with an expectation of 2.2% in 2016 compared to a trend rate of 3.2%.

“A” For Effort

Reduced fleet growth (1% to reach 1.8 bn dwt), increased demolition and extremely limited newbuild orders should all get an “A” for effort. Although demolition of 29m dwt was slightly below 1H 2012 levels, it was 43% above trend. However orders of 18m dwt and $16bn constituted a 35-year low and 68% down on the average since 2009 (lower than the 19.1m dwt in 1H 2009 and lower still if the Valemax orders of 12m dwt are excluded). Further pain for the shipyards and pressure on newbuild prices seems likely as the year progresses. Sale and Purchase activity was well down in value terms but marginally above trend by tonnage, reflecting the strong buying appetite for bulkers (bulker sales of 21m dwt in 1H 2016, the highest tonnage figure since 1H 2007).

Keep Up The Good Work

Although they eased back during the first half, tanker earnings continued to perform above trend with VLCC rates still averaging around $50,000/day. Product tanker earnings have also eased back somewhat this year but remain above trend, as does our index of chemical tanker earnings. The best performer across shipping was the Ro-Ro market, continuing its improvement from 2015 and 60% above trend, with the Ferry and Cruise markets also generally positive.

So shipping is experiencing some of its toughest conditions since the financial crisis and, despite its many efforts, may well be heading for an appointment with the headmaster (the bankers?). Have a nice day.

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As Norway celebrates 50 years of Nor-Shipping, it’s a good time to think about where shipping might be in another 50 years. In 1965 several shipping innovations were becoming reality. The first VLCC was near completion, Malcolm MacLean was finalising arrangements for the first transatlantic container service, Japan was emerging as the leading shipbuilding nation and sea trade was 1.7 billion tonnes.

Amazing Performance

When we look at the growth of sea trade since 1965, two things are apparent. The first is the speed of growth, as sea trade grew faster than the world economy. Between 1950 and 2015 world GDP grew by 3.7% per annum, but sea trade grew by 4.7%. Trade is now almost 11 billion tonnes a year, which works out at around 1.5 tonnes of imports for every man, woman and child in the world.

The second point is the bumpy trajectory (see graph). There was a spell in the 1970s and 1980s when trade did not increase significantly for a decade, thanks to a deep recession in the world economy and a sharp decline in the volume of oil traded by sea. This is a timely reminder that the shipping industry operates in a volatile environment.

The Next 50 Years

Looking ahead, the shipping industry faces a daunting task. One problem is judging how fast trade will grow. If global sea trade just increases in line with growth in population, which is heading for 10 billion in 2065, imports would reach 15 billion tonnes in that year (Scenario 1). But the imports per capita trend trebled from 0.5 tonnes per person in 1965 to an estimated 1.5 tonnes in 2015. If the upward trend continues, imports might reach 2.2 tonnes per capita by 2065 and trade 22 billion tonnes (Scenario 2). But today although the OECD countries import around 4 tonnes per capita, non-OECD imports are around 1t per capita. If they were to reach OECD levels, global sea trade would hit a total of 37 billion tonnes in 2065 (Scenario 3). Bewildering Forecast Range

So in 50 years’ time trade could be anything between 15 and 37 billion tonnes. And there are other scenarios, for example the phasing out of fossil fuels which could radically alter even this wide range. In terms of investment, on a very rough calculation, this means the industry could be spending between $1.5 and $4.5 trillion on new ships over the 50 years at today’s prices. How will shipping handle this? Since 1965 the focus has been on bigger ships, tight overheads, and an aggressive market offering little reward for innovative investment. But as the non-OECD driven world develops, with tougher targets for fuel and emissions, changes will be needed, and maybe a rethink.

Maritime Magic Carpet

So, if shipping is to play as big a part in the global economy in the next 50 years as it did in the last, it needs a new injection of maritime magic. The digital revolution, now global, offers shipping companies a unique opportunity to integrate the management of their high cost assets, improving productivity and offering new ways to manage them that tighten up the whole transport chain. Who knows, maybe that’s just the magic that’s needed. Have a nice day.

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Seven years into the recession, the tanker market is blazing away, with VLCCs earning over $50,000/day and Aframaxes not far behind. It’s an amazing development which leaves investors pondering whether this is, in Churchill’s famous words, “not the beginning of the end, but maybe the end of the beginning”. Analysts now wonder if it’s worth the risk of going out on a limb and calling “turning point”.

Potential Paradigms

Whatever the outlook, it’s worth pausing to enjoy the moment – and, perhaps, reflect that nothing like this happened in the 1980s. So something has obviously changed, but over the long-term it’s hard to see what it is. Since 2007, the tanker fleet has grown much faster than seaborne oil trade. We know from experience that when there’s an underlying surplus, spikes rarely last more than a few months and paradigm shifts making “this time different” are rarer than hen’s teeth, if not impossible.

Disappointing Demand

Let’s start with the crude oil trade, which fell by 6% from 38.4m bpd in 2007 to about 36.3m bpd in 2014. OECD oil demand has declined since 2007, with North America down 8%; Europe down 12% and Japan down 13%. So there’s not much joy there. Add an extra 4.6m bpd of oil production in North America and seaborne crude imports dropped by 2.1m bpd. Of course, non-OECD imports have increased, as has products trade, but overall the oil trade has only increased 2.8%, from 55m bpd in 2007 to 56.5m bpd in 2014. A tonne-mile approach pushes the growth up to 7.9%, but that’s still only 1.1% pa.

The Flighty Fleet

Meanwhile the tanker fleet has been buzzing. At the end of 2007, when the credit crisis was just getting started, it was 383m dwt, but since then it has grown by one third (126m dwt) to 509m dwt. Of course, macro statistics are always a bit fuzzy, but an increase of less than 10% in trade and 33% in ships tells a pretty clear story that there is probably lots of ‘surplus’ tonnage tucked away.

A Logical Disconnect?

Such a surplus should surely “cap” rates. But clearly this is not happening, so what’s going on? There are a few explanations. Firstly, seasonality; global oil demand was 2.1m bpd higher in Q4 2014 than in Q2. Assuming most of that is translated into trade, that’s a 4% increase which, over a short period is enough to get things started. Add to that the surge in speculative cargoes held at sea, and demand is motoring. Finally, throw in the reluctance of owners to speed up, and the limited growth in the crude tanker fleet in recent years, and the recent rates look more convincing.

Cyclical Or Structural?

So, simple numbers don’t always give you the whole answer, but there’s never any harm in looking at the big picture. If the simple interpretation is right, things might ease off. But the real dilemma is probably the underlying surplus. Are today’s speeds the ‘norm’ for the future? With bunkers at $300/tonne, the answer is “maybe”. But given time, it could well become a key question. Have a nice day.

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We may be in a recession, but some segments of the shipping market are doing better than others. In the last few months the dry bulk market has been plumbing the depths of despair, whilst large tanker owners appear to have hit the jackpot, with rates surging to over $60,000/day. Why is it that tankers are doing so well this year?

It’s All About Dynamics

Back in September VLCC tankers were earning less than $15,000/day, but over the winter the tanker market “slot machine” lined itself up with the four cherries needed to hit the jackpot. The first cherry was the seasonal cycle. Oil demand is generally higher in the final quarter of the year and in 2014 major importer demand was 2.2m bpd higher in Q4 than in Q2. The second cherry was the oil price, which collapsed just as the seasonal cycle got started. By the year end Brent at $50/bbl encouraged traders punting on physical oil, and where better place to put it than in a tanker? Cherry number three was slow steaming which meant that ships were at sea, not hanging around the loading zone. In December 2014 there was only one VLCC sitting spot in the Gulf on average, down from 12 in September 2014.

Fruity Number Four?

The fourth cherry was more subtle, but equally important; tanker owners seem to be better at “finding the floor” when the market tightens. In weaker periods, the theory runs, tanker owners are less likely to counter strongly in a tight market, for fear that charterers would turn the tables when the market slackens. When the supply-demand balance is more robust, as it appears to be today, they manage things more confidently. This sounds plausible, but is it true? To check, we analysed VLCC spot earnings since 1991, using the monthly average of VLCCs spot in the Gulf to indicate available supply. Splitting the data at 2000, we calculated the average earnings for each number of VLCCs sitting spot in the Gulf.

From A Position Of Strength

The results are shown in the graph. The blue line shows the spot/earnings relationship 1991-99 and the red line shows the same 2000-15. The lines suggest that with 7-20 VLCCs sitting spot in the Gulf, earnings were much the same in both the ‘weaker’ period (average earnings of $26,000/day 1991-99) and the ‘stronger’ period (average earnings post-2000 of $46,000/day). But with 6 or fewer spot ships, the earnings since 2000 have been 68% higher, suggesting that owners can  take greater advantage of a tight supply situation when the overall supply-demand balance is more positive.

How To Win The Jackpot

So there you have it – two conclusions. Firstly the number of ships in the loading zone is what matters, not any “theoretical surplus”. If ships are slow steaming, such a surplus only matters if they speed up. Secondly the analysis suggests that when the supply of spot ships is tight, the wider ‘strength’ of the market impacts how owners negotiate matters a great deal. Relative to spot supply, VLCC earnings in the stronger post-2000 period increased significantly compared with the weaker 1990s. As a result, the conclusion for owners could be “stay slow and be brave”. Have a nice day.

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In the outrageously camp film The Spy Who Shagged Me, made in 1999, super-spy Austin Powers battles with the forces of darkness in the form of Dr Evil. The doctor’s most outrageous tactic is to invent a new Time Machine which allows him to travel back to the 1960s where he steals Austin’s Mojo, leaving the unlikely sex symbol spy totally “shagless”. “Crikey!”, he expostulates, “I’ve lost my Mojo”.

Big Boy Boost

Over the years, investors in the VLCC market have shared an equally debilitating experience. The first of these miracles of modern shipping appeared in 1967. Over 1,000 feet long and carrying 2 million barrels of oil, they were the last word in efficiency, delivering Middle East oil to Europe and Japan, who were rebuilding their economies, for less than $1 a barrel. As US domestic oil production fell in the early 1970s it boosted imports even more, and to meet this demand Saudi Arabia increased output from 2.8m bpd in 1967 to 9.7m bpd in 1977. The VLCC market went mad. Investors queued to order 4 million barrel ships and the VLCC fleet grew faster than any other shipping fleet in history, from zero in 1967 to 193m dwt in December 1979.

Mighty Mojo Missing

Unfortunately, around that fateful date in the late 1970s, VLCCs, like Austin Powers, lost their Mojo. The problem was not Dr Evil and his Time Machine; it was two oil crises in quick succession. The first in 1973 pushed oil to $10/barrel, and after the second crisis in 1979 oil reached $30/barrel, by which time it was changing hands for 15-20 times more dollars than a decade earlier. These developments in the oil market triggered a double barrel downer for VLCC demand. First, a long and deep recession in the world economy undermined long-haul imports, and secondly a major round of oil saving technology cut demand even more (for example power stations switched from oil to coal, a massive structural change in oil’s market). By 1986 Saudi Arabia’s production had dropped by two-thirds to 3.6m bpd and VLCCs were in deep trouble. The fleet dropped 37% to 110m dwt in 1988, surely some form of record.

20 Years Out In The Cold

For twenty years from 1983 to 2003 the VLCC fleet struggled along in a grim and Mojo-less world. Then in 2003 a big dose of Chinese medicine got the fleet kick started again. Long-haul imports by the big three of Europe, USA and Japan were topped off by China and the Asian tigers, and from 2003 to 2013 the VLCC fleet grew at 4% pa. But since 2007 demand has been sapped by high oil prices, increased US production, a credit crisis, and a deep OECD recession. As a result crude oil tonne miles have only increased by 5% in total since 2007.

Dr Evil’s Wicked Way

So there you have it. Although it’s not the 1960s, Dr Evil is still at work on the VLCC fleet’s Mojo. Of course today’s Mojo surgery is not as dire as the 1980s, but the flagging crude demand growth since 2007 and brisk fleet growth have created spare capacity. Luckily some of it is soaked up by slow steaming, so when he’s in the mood, our hero can still enjoy a nice little spike. But sadly Austin’s still very short on stamina. Have a nice day.

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