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HANSA 10-2020

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Märkte | Markets

Märkte | Markets VIEWPOINT »Reefer capacity lagging demand« The reefer freight markets received a boost this year as container liner services got pruned back. Philip Gray, Philip Gray, Reefer Shipping Analyst with Drewry Reefer Shipping Analyst with Drewry and editor of its annual review of the sector, considers the fundamentals to be healthy over the coming years. Specialist reefer operators are likely to continue losing market share versus container carriers though. Both specialist reefer t/c rates and reefer container rates went up this year amid the Covid-19 crisis. Why does the sector seem to be doing well despite a global recession? Philip Gray: The food and particularly the perishables cargo segments have traditionally performed well compared to the dry cargo trades. We also saw it in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis where the dry cargo and the container sectors had some difficult years whereas the reefer trades weathered the crisis reasonably well. People always seek healthy food while reefer equipment and capacity are not in overabundance. How do you see supply/demand in the reefer trades developing over the coming years? Gray: As far as reefer container equipment is concerned, we forecast supply to slightly lag transport demand in our projections until 2024. What’s the future of specialist reefer operators? Will there be enough seasonal business left for them? Gray: The biggest issue for large specialised reefer vessels is the supply chain in the fruit and fresh food business with its growing reliance on reefer containers. Today there is still plenty of seasonal business available for the big ships (over 400,000 cft) although not always enough in-between seasons. They will maintain a role in supporting the reefer trades although container liner operators will continue nibbling at the edges. Whether reefer operators themselves convert to fully containerised services one day, remains to be seen. The big banana multinationals have already converted to a large extent to container vessels in a mix of dedicated (own) space and third-party liner services.mph © Drewry Container boom in times of recession Capacity tightness worsened during the past weeks, propelling freight and charter rates higher. There is simply not enough tonnage to cope with the temporary burst in transport demand. By Michael Hollmann Container shipping has been outstripping the wildest expectations. There was no summer lull in trading this year – instead the industry emerged stronger yet from the »holiday season«. After continued gains throughout July and August, it could not be taken for granted that the rally in freight rates and in charter rates would simply continue. However, by the middle of September spot cargo rates were up another 18% month-on-month, according to the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index which tracks price levels on 13 routes out of the Far East. Spot rates for shipments from Asia to North America have climbed to new record heights week after week. Cash cow transpacific Although the air seems to get thinner, they do keep nudging up baffling analysts and also putting cartel watchdogs both in China and in the US on alert. At the time of writing, spot rates for loadings ex Shanghai to the US West Coast are knocking on 4,000 $/FEU – almost three times as much as 12 months earlier. The transpacific – a difficult battle ground for container lines over the past years – has suddenly become a cash cow, delivering returns unseen in other trades today. If liner operators have managed to extend their earnings spree into Q3, transpacific revenues will have a played a key role, no doubt. Reports say that China’s ministry of transport has meanwhile intervened, summoning carrier representatives on 11 September to urge them to soften their grip on capacity and reconsider further planned freight increases. The US Federal Maritime Commission also increased its scrutiny, warning that it would seek an injunction from the federal court to prevent capacity reductions if there were indications that the carriers’ behaviour might violate competition standards as set out in the US Shipping Act. Carrier seem to have heeded the warning, with Cosco apparently cancelling a planned general rate increase while others went to reinstate sailings for October which were to be blanked, citing exceptionally high cargo demand as reason. So far, these moves have had little tangible impact on the container spot market. Do regulators have a point to become active? Are the container lines in breach of competition standards? The fact is that the market landscape in liner shipping has not fundamentally changed since the regrouping of liner operators into just three major alliances and the latest wave of M&A some years ago – all reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities. Providing evidence of collusion among alliance members or even across alliances will also be difficult since there is proof that the consortia have taken no uniform approach to capacity management. Some blanked more sailings, others blanked less thus grabbing some more market share. Perhaps most importantly, carriers can argue that it’s not capacity reductions but rather a surge in cargo demand that drives rates up on the transpacific today. Hard to 8 HANSA – International Maritime Journal 10 | 2020

Märkte | Markets Auf vereinen wir eine Übersicht wichtiger Kennzahlen: Fracht- und Charterraten in der Container-, Bulk- und Tankerschifffahrt, Bunkerpreise, MPP-, Shortsea- und Umschlag-Indizes, Ölpreise und vieles mehr Orders & Sales New Orders Container The last weeks saw some activity in Asia, albeit in smaller vessel sizes. Among others, Taiwan-based TS Lines contracted 2+2 feeder ships (1,900 TEU) at Huangpu Wenching and SITC ordered 6+6 1,800 TEU units at Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group. Secondhand Sales The S&P market is currently characterized by a growing number of negotations, as owners continue to adapt their fleets. Also in a broader »German shipping context«, several vessels changed hands: The 25 years old Sietas-built 509-TEU-unit »Atlantic Comet« was acquired by Dutch operator A2B; two 4,363-TEUships (»Ital Massima«, »Ital Melodia«) were bought by Atlantic/Asiatic Loyd; Borealis Maritime takes over the »Nordic Macau« of Nordic Hamburg; DAL/Essberger acquired the 6,600-TEU-vessels »Mataquito« from Peter Döhle. Demolition Sales Notwithstanding the Covid-19-led distortions on the Indian sub-continent, brokers see a surprising number of transactions as some cash buyers obviously are quite active. Current price levels are 340 $/ldt in Pakistan, 320 $ in India, 330 $ in Bangladesh and 200 $ in Turkey. The ships sold include »Sinokor Yokohama« and »Ever decent«.MM Container ship t / c market 450 400 350 300 26.03.20 Container freight market WCI Shanghai-Rotterdam 2,294 $/FEU + 19.3 % WCI Shanghai-Los Angeles 4,085 $/FEU + 16.4 % Dry cargo / Bulk 24.09.20 Month on Month 452 • + 9.8 % Baltic Dry Index 1,605 + 6.4 % Time charter averages / spot: $/d Capesize 5TC average 22,841 + 20.8 % Panamax 4TC average (82k) 12,247 - 15.8 % Supramax 10TC average (58k) 10,809 + 2.4 % Handysize 7TC average (38k 10,430 + 2.6 % Forward / ffa front month (Oct 20): $/d Capesize 180k 23,153 + 5.0 % Panamax 74k 13,902 - 10.5 % MPP September ’19 $ 7,490 TMI Toepfer’s Multipurpose Index September ’20 $ 6,545 12,500 tdw MPP/HL »F-Type« vessel for a 6-12 months TC Tankers Shortsea / Coaster Norbroker 3,500 dwt earnings est. 2,500 + 19.0 % HC Shortsea Index 12.83 + 1.2 % ISTFIX Shortsea Index 404 + 10.4 % Norbroker: spot t/c equivalent assessment basis round voyage North Sea/Baltic; HC Shipping & Chartering index tracking spot freights on 5 intra-European routes; Istfix Istanbul Freight Index covering spot freight ex Black Sea Bunkers COMPASS Baltic Dirty Tanker Index 431 - 8.9 % Baltic Clean Tanker Index 412 - 16.3 % VLSFO 0.5 Rotterdam $/t 292 - 7.6 % MGO Rotterdam $/t 315 - 17.3 % Forward / Swap price Q4 / 20 VLSFO 0.5 Rotterdam $/t 290 - 9.1 % Data per 24.09.2020, month-on-month believe but true: Despite a global recession, shipping volumes from Asia to North America have not just recovered, they are even outstripping levels during the same time last year, with CTS data showing an +11% year-on-year increase in transpacific headhaul volumes during July. Near-term container import forecasts by the US National Retail Federation remain strong. Container lines were right to prune back capacity in the second quarter when lockdowns across the globe, particularly those in Europe and North America, caused double-digit falls in container loadings. Since then they have slackened the reins to such an extent that active route capacity got restored back to normal in the Asia-Europe trade. On the Asia-US West Coast route weekly slot capacity is currently up by more than 10% year-on-year, according to Danish research firm Sea-Intelligence. Numerous extra loaders – mainly panamaxes and post-panamaxes – have been deployed by the lines to cope with the cargo rush. It is hardly justified then to accuse liner operators of artificially limiting capacity. On a global scale, the idle fleet continued to contract sharply, reaching 644,000 TEU or 2.7% of the world container ship fleet in mid-September, according to Alphaliner. This is about the same level as one year ago. However, the lion’s share of tonnage counted as idle in fact cannot be mobilized at short notice. Most units are in drydock or at yard berths for scrubber retrofits or they are excluded from trading due to financial distress, sanctions or the like. There are precious few unemployed ships that carriers can draw on after they chartered in vessels »left, right and centre« in recent months, as one broker quipped. The continued rise in charter rates speaks volumes in this respect. By the middle of September, the New ConTex was up almost 16% month-on-month, with all vessel classes from 1,700 TEU upwards enjoying double-digit gains. Inventory replenishment The current strength in container traffic – at least in the Far East/North America, Far East/Europe and the Intra-Asia trade – is likely driven by inventory replenishment across the industry and retail sectors. Merchandise stocks were radically reduced during the lockdowns, now they have to be filled up again just as fast to get back to reasonable base levels for businesses to operate. Of course, this cannot go on forever. The big question is when this catching-up effect will begin to fizzle out. Golden Week in China at the start of October usually marks the end of the cargo peak season in container shipping. Most goods for the Xmas shopping season got dispatched by the time factories across China close down for the festive week. Will it be different this time? While some analysts are warning that the container market will inevitably cool down in October, others are suggesting that there is enough procurement volume in the pipeline for the boom to continue possibly until Xmas. If the latter proves right, the fourth quarter might turn out to be the best in a decade both for liner shipping companies and their charter tonnage providers. n HANSA – International Maritime Journal 10 | 2020 9

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