Archives for posts with tag: VLCC

In such a volatile business as shipping, it is commonly held that shipowners are “paid to take the risk”. As a result of this, earnings from their assets may often be thin whilst they bide their time for the “days in the sun” when they enjoy earnings at the top end of the market range where they make a significant share of their money. Here we take a close look at this distribution of owners’ earnings.

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

One of the most important building blocks of shipping market economics is the concept of the ‘delivered cost’ of a commodity and freight’s part within it. In general, the freight element of the cost of delivering (i.e. selling from the point of origin and shipping to the buyer) of a commodity is only a limited part of the total delivered cost. This has key implications for shipping market behaviour.

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

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.


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.


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.