Archives for posts with tag: world trade

There have been plenty of record breaking facts and figures to report across 2016, unfortunately mostly of a gloomy nature! From a record low for the Baltic Dry Index in February to a post-1990 low for the ClarkSea Index in August, there have certainly been plenty of challenges. That hasn’t stopped investors however (S&P not newbuilds) so let’s hope for less record breakers (except demolition!?) in 2017.SIW1254

Unwelcome Records….

Our first record to report came in August when the ClarkSea Index hit a post-1990 low of $7,073/day. Its average for the year was $9,441/day, down 35% y-o-y and also beating the previous cyclical lows in 2010 and 1999. With OPEX for the same basket of ships at $6,394/day, margins were thin or non-existent.

Challenges Abound….

Across sectors, average tanker earnings for the year were “OK” but still wound down by 40%, albeit from an excellent 2015. Despite a good start and end to the year, the wet markets were hit hard by a weak summer when production outages impacted. The early part of the year also brought us another unwelcome milestone: the Baltic Dry Index falling to an all time low of 291. Heavy demolition in the first half and better than expected Chinese trade helped later in the year – fundamentals may be starting to turn but perhaps taking time to play out with bumps on the way. The container market (see next week) had another tough year, including its first major corporate casualty for 30 years in Hanjin. LPG had a “hard” landing after a stellar 2015, LNG showed small improvements and specialised products started to ease back. As reported in our mid-year review, every “dog has its day” and in 2016, this was Ro-Ro and Ferry, with earnings 50% above the trend since 2009. Also spare a thought for the offshore sector, arguably facing an even more extreme scenario than shipping.

Buy, Buy, Buy….

In our review of 2015, we speculated that buyers might be “eyeing up a bottoming out dry cycle” in 2016 and a 24% increase in bulker tonnage bought and sold suggests a lot of owners agreed. Indeed, 44m dwt represents another all time record for bulker S&P, with prices increasing marginally after the first quarter and brokers regularly reporting numerous parties willing to inspect vessels coming for sale. Tanker investors were much more circumspect and volumes and prices both fell by a third. Greeks again topped the buyer charts, followed by the Chinese. Demo eased in 2H but (incl. containers) total volumes were up 14% (44m dwt).

Order Drought….

Depending on your perspective, an overall 71% drop in ordering (total orders also hit a 35 year record low) is either cause for optimism or for further gloom! In fact, only 113 yards took orders (for vessels 1,000+ GT) in the year, compared to 345 in 2013, with tanker orders down 83% and bulkers down 46%. There was little ordering in any sector, except Cruise (a record 2.5m GT and $15.6bn), Ferry and Ro-Ro (all niche business however and of little help to volume yards).

Final Record….

Finally a couple more records – global fleet growth of 3% to 1.8bn dwt (up 50% since the financial crisis with tankers at 555m dwt and bulkers at 794m dwt) and trade growth of 2.6% to 11.1bn tonnes (up 3bn tonnes since the financial crisis) mean we still finish with the largest fleet and trade volumes of all time! Plenty of challenges again in 2017 but let’s hope we aren’t reporting as many gloomy records next year.
Have a nice New Year!

Events in the world economy appear to be leading to a bit of a change in fortunes for world trade. Having grown by 3.2% in 2014, current trade flow projections suggest that global seaborne trade growth in 2015 might not surpass 2.6%. However, a lot of the data available is based on annual projections, and analysis of monthly numbers might tell market watchers something more…

The World’s Shopping

Annual projections for seaborne trade growth provide easy to use demand side indicators. Monthly data can often provide a better understanding of the real dynamics but can be hard to work with, and trade data at that frequency is not always available. Additionally, there is generally a lag of a few months until monthly data is available, reducing its  ability to tell us what is happening today. However, monthly data can be particularly helpful in identifying short-term changes, with annual figures failing to show the different trends within the period.

Basket Case?

To try to capture this potential, the analysis here uses a ‘basket’ approach. With monthly data on some component trade flows of the world total unavailable, the index is based on the year-on-year growth rate of a basket of monthly trade flows in tonnes for a fairly wide range of key trade flows in the major seaborne trade commodities, including dry bulk, oil and products, gas and containers. In total, 55% of world seaborne trade featured in the basket in 2014. The aggregate here runs as far as June 2015; where a few elements of monthly data were unavailable, the missing values have been estimated based on year to date trends.

Immediately, the index shows that trade growth can be highly volatile on a monthly basis. In June the index stood at 3% but within the previous year it had been as high as 5% and as low as -6%. It also shows that today is largely not nearly as bad as 2009 when the index hit -11%. It also tells us that tricky periods are nothing new since then; in both September 2012 and March 2013 the moving average of the index hit the zero growth mark.

Tricky Selection

Nevertheless, 1H 2015 clearly saw a sustained period of slower growth, and the index averaged 0%. Both coal and iron trade have come under pressure, and China’s total seaborne dry bulk imports were down by 8%. Box trade expansion has also eased, facing headwinds from the European economy and slowing intra-Asian demand. But, from the moving average, it looks like the bottom of the cycle might have passed, or maybe things have been on the way back down again since April? Growth could have been on a downward trend from late 2014, or with hindsight since mid-2010 (since when the peaks in the index have been getting lower). That would fit well with the view of structural change in China.

Watch The Shopping List

In reality it’s hard to tell, and sometimes the volatility of monthly data can blur the picture too. But in general it helps put changes in better context, and with some hindsight see the turning points. Clearly keen analysts should watch their monthly shopping basket. Have a nice day.


Money, or even love if you prefer, are claimed to make the world go round. For the shipping world, however, it’s trade that sets things spinning. Those wishing to grasp the magnitude of world seaborne trade might want to consider that it is projected to close in on 11 billion tonnes in 2015. Examining the statistics in more detail sheds further light on its role in the world economy.

What’s In The Basket?

Seaborne trade is made up of a wide range of commodities. Tankers and bulkers carry a huge amount of the tonnage. This year, the 11.0 billion tonnes (bt) will include of 3.2 bt of major bulks, another 1.5 bt of minor bulks and 2.8 bt of crude oil and refined oil products. But there’s plenty of room for other cargo too. Manufactures take their place with 1.7 bt of containerised cargo (which punches further above its weight in value terms) and another 1.1 bt of other non-bulk dry cargo (some still ripe for containerization). More specialised shipping completes the set, with 0.6 bt of liquefied gas trade and chemicals trade combined. These components tell us a lot about the shipping model, and the last two SIW feature articles noted the role of China: importing industrial raw materials in bulk, and exporting manufactures on containerships.

Popular Concept

This year world seaborne trade is projected to represent 1.5 tonnes of cargo for each person on the planet, up from 1.0t in 2000. As economic growth continues in developing economies, populations typically contribute more to world seaborne trade on a per capita basis, and as they ‘catch up’ with western world levels this drives increased trade (and a higher ratio). Even if the ratio remains unchanged, the current projection of 8.4 bn people on the planet by 2030 would mean an extra 1.7 bt of seaborne trade.

Multiplier Effect

Then there’s the ‘multiplier’ effect. Over the last 5 years, for example, the growth in world seaborne trade has clocked in on average at 1.13 times more than the growth in the world economy. As globalisation has taken hold, international trade has typically grown more quickly than world economic output. Seaborne container trade, for example, has enabled the connection of distant producers and consumers, and also the component trade enabling multi-location manufacture connected by low unit cost shipping. Discovery of natural resources in locations other than economic growth centres also helps. In 2015, the world economy is expected to grow by 3.5% but world seaborne trade is expected to grow more quickly, by 4.1%.

Keep It Going Round

Since the decline in 2009, seaborne trade growth has been quite consistent, averaging about 4%. Without the huge fleet dwt growth of 55% in the period 2008-14, the market downturn might have been less severe. On Shipping Intelligence Network, monthly tables and our Seaborne Trade Monitor report provide regularly updated seaborne trade statistics. At a rough estimate, seaborne trade constitutes over 80% of the global total volume by all modes. That’s some achievement, and until the world comes up with an alternative, it will keep on making the world go around. Have a nice day.


Last week, we looked at which countries occupy the leading positions in terms of the supply side of shipping: that is, who owns all the ships. This week we follow-up by looking at which countries contribute the most to the demand side of the industry. Which countries account for the largest portions of global demand for shipping? And which countries are punching above their weight?

Key Trade Players

In total, world seaborne trade is estimated to have reached just under 10 billion tonnes in 2013. Bulk cargo trades in dry bulks, liquid bulks and gases represented 85% of this total, or a massive 8.4 billion tonnes. Overall, world trade has grown at an average rate of 3.8% since 2000. The Graphs of the Week show which countries have contributed to this, and now have the largest shares of 2013 bulk trade by sea.

China Wins, Of Course…

It will come as no surprise to anyone that China is the country with the largest portion of overall seaborne bulk trade, with a 13% share of the total. China’s imports (a massive 1.8 billion tonnes) represented 23% of global imports in 2013, including nearly 800mt of iron ore, 286mt of crude and products and 308mt of coal. Of course, China has a much lower (2%) share of those commodities’ global exports. On the other hand, its containerised exports represent around 25% of global trade in TEU terms.

The ten countries shown on the graph account for just over 50% of the world’s seaborne imports and exports of bulk cargoes, meaning that, given that there are in excess of 250 countries globally, world bulk trade is quite consolidated around a relatively small number of countries. Indeed, the top three countries account for more than 25% of the total.

No EU countries feature in the top 10 countries, demonstrating the impact of the rise of developing Asia. Then again, if considered en bloc, the EU has 14% of world seaborne bulk trade: exceeding even China, although not by much.

Using their Chance?

So, what about those countries punching above their weight? Excluding island microstates, the country with the largest ratio of trade to population is Qatar, with 94 tonnes of trade per capita. Qatar is the world’s largest gas exporter, with 33% of world LNG trade and 16% share in LPG. Other countries high on this ranking include several other Gulf states, and the sparsely-populated raw materials export giant that is Australia. However, in 2nd place is Singapore, which imports more bulk cargoes than it exports, given its status as an oil refining hub. China is just 127th place for trade per capita, while India is 181st.

Overall, the graphs confirm the importance of a list of countries which will be well known to all involved in global shipping. At the heart of world trade are a group of big raw materials exporters, along with the consumption-driven states of the developed world, plus major developing economies. All four of the key BRIC developing countries feature on the graph. Many of the so-called VISTA countries feature in the next 20 countries not shown: could they soon begin to move up the table?