25/1/2013 - Small room for optimism for the prospects of the dry bulk market as net fleet growth is slowing down


Despite the fact that the dry bulk market didn't manage to post a rebound during the past year, quite the opposite, as a fast fleet growth and slower demand growth pushed freights rates lower. According to the latest weekly report from shipbroker Intermodal, the Baltic Dry Index averaged at 920 points, the lowest level in over 25 years, while it was only the second time in history that the BDI dropped below the 1,000 point mark on average during a whole year. According to an analysis from Intermodal's Yannis Olziersky, "except for the expected seasonal gains (March – May & September – November), which even these were subdued this year, freight rates have remained under pressure and in many occasions vessels were forced to trade below their OPEX as demand throughout the year didn't grow by as much as was needed.

The recessive economic conditions in the developed countries (EU and US) and the slowing down of economic growth in the emerging countries, widened evermore the gap between supply and demand, resulting in one of the worst years for the dry bulk sector" he said. Looking forward into 2013, the shipbroker's report points at a few parameters of the market that could offer room for some fresh opportunities and the basis for renewed hope. "Although much of the fundamentals point towards another difficult year, there is a small glimpse of hope in the horizon that we may be surprised and see things turn out much better then we initially expected. For instance, "net fleet growth is slowing down despite the large number of deliveries scheduled over the next twelve months. Scrapping activity hit a record number in 2012 with approximately 52mdwt (approx. 34mdwt of these where dry bulkers) removed from active service, while the presently firm prices witnessed in the demo market are substantial basis that this momentum can be maintained in 2013 and possibly even feed another record scrapping year! Some investments on the second hand dry market made by shipowners with long and respectable tradition in the shipping market point towards the presence of optimism (although only slight) for the future prospects as well as potentially the presence of prime conditions for asset play. A new monthly high record of Chinese iron ore imports in December and an annual record of 740mt show that China is still ramping up its industrial production and still there to support the bulk carrier fleet" Olziersky said in his report.
Concluding the argument, the shipbroker said that "although the above points indeed provide some room for optimism for the future, the pace of new additions in the dry market along with the current global economic turmoil, creates some scepticism and hesitance as to whether the rebound is just around the corner or still a long way away. On the other hand and as has been mentioned countless times, opportunities can always be found during crisis and adverse market conditions. With present asset values standing close to their historical lows and having been in a “shipping crisis” for almost 5 years now, it might not be such a bad idea to invest now after all" it concluded.
Meanwhile, in the newbuilding market, a crucial element of future fleet growth, Intermodal said that is was another fairly busy week, especially when compared to market expectations. "While it is the wet sector that appears to be enjoying most of the newbuilding interest, especially in the product/chemical segments, the container market has finally shown some signs of life this past week. For an extremely troubled sector that has seen the average vessel size increase significantly throughout the years, containers are looking like they might slowly make a small comeback as far as new orders are concerned, especially when big market players like Seaspan are still willing to place such impressive orders. In terms of reported deals this week, Jebsen (Norway), placed an order of 3 Kamsarmaxes at the shipyard JV of Universal-JMU in Japan for an excess of $30.0m each. The price reported is impressive when compared to previously reported deals and current price levels and proves that Japanese yards are still in a position to charge a considerable premium to competing shipbuilders elsewhere" the report concluded.

SOURCE: Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide