Recovering Freight Rates Threatened by Uncertainty

Recovering Freight Rates Threatened by Uncertainty

The oversupply in the freight market is still clearly felt as Panamax freight rates drag along, the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) said in a review.

“Fortunately, the erratic movements have now been mostly upward since the bottom-out on 27 June at USD 3,362 per day. Since then, freight rates have more than doubled to USD 7,101 per day, but this is still very different from delivering healthy earnings to owners and operators as the present ones are barely covering OPEX,” the association said.

Supramaxes and Handysizes live a less volatile life than their larger peers do, and the rebound is clearly felt and seen, moving from the lower end of BIMCO’s forecast freight rate interval to the top for Handysizes, with Supramaxes still firming to close the gap completely.

Recovering Freight Rates Threatened by Uncertainty1According to BIMCO, the only disappointment were Capesize freight rates that only reached USD 17,670 per day on 10 September and have since then slid down to USD 11,000 per day.

“The development in the sub-Capesize ship sizes mirrors very well what we have experienced in terms of demand. The weak development of coal cargoes into China has given some softness to the Panamax market, with Indian imports failing to make up for all the lost demand. In the meantime, the Supras and Handies have both benefitted from the strong demand for minor bulks. On top of that, we have surging Indian coal imports up by 19% year-on-year to 16 million tonnes in September, as busy power companies went on a buying spree at low international prices,” the association added.

The grain export season is also up and running now across the northern hemisphere. Even the exports of wheat and barley from Ukraine have contributed positively to the market, despite the difficult situation Ukraine is facing due to the stand-off with Russia.

Russia’s exports of the same commodities are also very high. Russian exports in August were at a record high of 4.2 MT according to USDA, as seasonality spikes exports. In Ukraine, exports are strong too at 3.3 MT in both August and September, according to BIMCO data.

The dry bulk carrier fleet has grown by 3.6% in the first nine months of the year – 37.8 million DWT (486 units) have been delivered, offset by 11.5 million DWT (213 units) being demolished. One-third of the total added capacity came in the form of 66 Capesizes and 1 Valemax. In addition to that, 144 Panamaxes, 150 Supra-/Handymax and 125 Handysizes entered the active fleet.

BIMCO forecast the total level of newbuilt deliveries for 2014 to reach 55 million DWT, with the current forecast for 2015 heading for a slightly lower level than that. The order-book for 2016 has built up to reach 60 million DWT. With demolition expected to remain somewhat unchanged, this will again increase the pressure on the fundamental supply-demand balance as the fleet could expand by almost 6% again, up from 5.2% projected for 2015.

The newbuilding contracting activity has been more subdued in 2014 as compared to the rush of 2013, where 102 million DWT of new orders were placed. At the beginning of October 2014, the year-to-date contracting volumes stood at exactly half that of the full year 2013. 2014 is therefore heading for a significant slowdown from 2013, but still a level that does not support an improved market balance going forward unless it is combined with a strong demolition activity, BIMCO forecast.

Speaking of the outlook BIMCO said that the level of Capesize TC average rates will rise from the current level below the USD 10,000 per day mark. Once the belated, but still anticipated, rush of Brazilian iron ore spot cargoes enter the market, freight rates should be volatile around USD 8,000-23,000 per day. Panamax TC average rates will remain around USD 5,000-10,000 per day.

For the Supramax segment, BIMCO forecasts freight rates in the USD 8,500-13,500 per day range, whereas Handysize freight rates are expected around USD 6,500-9,500 per day.

Source: BIMCO, October 15, 2014

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