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Rates have struggled all year to beat last years’ performance, and failed miserably to do so beyond Q1, with the exception of Capesizes that managed to deliver stronger freight rates in Q2 also.
During the past eighteen months, a couple of trends seem clear in the freight market for container shipping. Primarily, the demand for imported containerised goods in Europe and US is going up, reflecting the clearly improved economic development. Secondly, the vessels become larger and larger as the quest to lower unit costs is high on the agenda everywhere. Thirdly, the major freight rate volatility is mostly on European-bound containers.
“The importance of China to the shipping market is second to none. This goes for all major shipping segments. In spite of leaving the double-digit growth rates behind us in the previous decade, the sheer size of the world’s second-largest economy now gives so much impetus to our industry that we have become addicted to China.”
The demand situation in tanker shipping is anything but formidable. We see a mixed picture from one trading area to the next and from crude oil to products.
All stakeholders in shipping realize that the business is cyclical, and the most important challenge is to predict the ups and downs and plan accordingly. But few had in their wildest fantasies predicted the financial crisis that hit the world four years ago, and the significant drop in cargo volumes and the major impact this had on all shipping markets.
The world needs daring and decisive political leadership, especially in the EU and the US, for confidence and optimism to find its way to the consumers. Unfortunately, the political stalemate in the US continued throughout 2011
Overall, it’s noticeable that record numbers of fixtures and demand for tonnage only produce a short-lived spike at rather low altitudes – making little impact on stretched owners’ financial accounts. Ship owners without a solid cash balance and a strong, or at least sustainable, cash flow will find it increasing difficult to continue in this business at the present level and volatility.
Shipping Analyst at BIMCO, Peter Sand, spoke earlier this week at the 23rd International Lloyd's List & Lloyd's Shipping Economist Ship Finance & Investment Conference in London, UK on 16-17 November 2010.