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Gulf of Guinea crude oil exports have year-to-date contributed 13.7% of VLCC’s tonne miles demand and 16.5% of Suezmaxes. A 13.5% y/y drop in Nigerian year-to-date crude oil output has been the main drain on demand and caused a 5.9% decline in tonne miles. A further decline in Gulf of Guinea exports can be expected from mid-2023 when Nigeria’s Dangote refinery begins operation – requiring a sizeable portion of the country’s crude oil – and possibly add to rate volatility.
Container volumes in head-haul and regional trades are the key drivers of container vessel demand, average container rates, liner operator profits, and, since 2020, port congestion. According to Container Trade Statistics, combined head-haul and regional trade volumes fell 0.4% y/y in the first half of 2022. Head-haul volumes were 1.3% lower than a year ago while regional volumes were 0.6% higher. Under normal market circumstances the peak season in key head-haul trades should lift Q3 volumes. However, recently released volume statistics indicate that there may be no peak season in 2022 but it is very likely that volumes will slow in Q4.
On 22 July, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to allow grain exports from three ports in Ukraine during a period of 120 days. On 7 September, Putin expressed concerns over the agreement, giving rise to uncertainty about its scope and renewal.
Preliminary shipping data from Oceanbolt shows a 1.7% y/y drop in Chinese iron ore import volumes in August. The volumes are, however, the highest since January and follow a 3.1% y/y increase in July. Year-to-date, Chinese iron ore imports are down 3.3% y/y, making up around 20% of global dry bulk volumes, but could be in for a bounce, benefitting the struggling Capesize segments.
China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil, accounting for approximately 25% of global crude import volumes. The country’s crude imports are also equal to about 25% of global seaborne crude oil volumes which contributed to about 30% of dirty tanker trade tonne miles in 2021 according to Signal Ocean statistics. From 2010 to 2020, China’s crude imports grew at an average annual rate of 8.5% and have been the key demand driver for both crude oil and crude tanker demand.
Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic and mobility restrictions across the world led to much lower transport demand in the container sector. In the 3rd quarter of 2020, however, demand jumped as consumers converted spending on services to higher spending on goods. Freight and time charter rates have since reached historically high levels as congestion has increased the strain on supply. Now, the size of the container fleet has, however, caught up with transport demand.
On 9 August, the Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister announced that 71 coal miners failed to meet their domestic market obligations, and that 48 of them are now banned from exporting coal. The ban comes into force just as the EU ban on Russian coal takes full effect and demand for non-Russian coal increases.
Retail sales are a key driver of European container imports. In early 2020 and early 2021, retail sales volumes in the EU and the UK suffered setbacks due to COVID restrictions but recently, high inflation and historically low consumer confidence have been the main concerns.
On 22 July, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement with Turkey and the United Nations to allow grain exports from three ports in western Ukraine: Yuzhne, Chornomorsk, and Odesa. Combined, the three ports accounted for 65% of the country’s total grain exports over the past five years. Exports could, however, face several difficulties.
Between 1996 and 2021, the lowest half-yearly tanker contracting volume was 3.0m DWT, recorded in the first half of 1999. Despite improved freight rates and a more positive market outlook, the first six months of 2022 ended with barely more than half that volume: only 1.6m DWT was contracted. Consequently, the order book to fleet ratio has fallen to 5.1% for both crude and product tankers, a ratio which is also the lowest since 1996.