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Intermodal Weekly Report

23 Μαΐου 2020.

ploiacontainpanamMarket insight

By Christopher Whitty

Director, Towage & Marine Port Services

Seafarers keep maritime trade going so that the food, raw materials, energy and manufactured goods on which so many depend can continue moving around the world. At this critical point during these unprecedented times, people outside the maritime industry can now better understand and realize the role of seafarers in this industry, it’s wide spectrum and that ninety percent of global trade is transported by commercial seaborne transportation.

It has been three months since the crew-repatriation issue first arose and despite a major lobbying effort on the part of the shipping industry, there has been remarkably little progress in terms of actually getting crewmembers home. Apart from the main aspects of the problem, there is a lot of logistical planning and coordination into this, a key requirement of which is the resumption of international flights.

Most countries around the world are trying to get back to what is displayed in the media as a new normal, in an attempt to restart their economies, but ultimately if the crew changes problem is not resolved quickly and as a result ships aren’t able to operate safely and support vital trade routes and cargoes, the respective economies will not have the fundamentals to restart properly. Seafarer labor interests agreed to not stand in the way of one-month extensions to employment contracts on March 15, on April 15 and and again on mid-May. At the moment, however, the status quo has not changed and internationally recognized bodies such as the ITF (International Transport Federation ) are stressing again that if we do not see tangible and significant progress now or the latest by mid-June, then we will be facing an even bigger problem and multiple threats related to the health and wellbeing of seafarers at sea and the risks associated with this vague landscape.

The pandemic outbreak halted virtually all crew repatriations from ships, so crews have kept working way beyond their original contract terms, away from their families who are also going through restrictions. The oceangoing shipping industry has been working aggressively to solve the crew-repatriation issue, urging governments to designate seafarers as “key workers” and allow them to transit regardless of nationality. The ITF meets frequently with delegates of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the ship operators; the World Health Organization; the International Maritime Organization (IMO); and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents 80 percent of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage, and the International Transport Federation which speaks for two million seafarers, have issued a bipartisan call for action to: Designate a specific and limited number of airports for the safe movement and repatriation of crews, redefine seafarers as key workers providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, lift national restrictions designed for non essential passengers and deliver their commitment to keep supply chains open by taking urgent measures on the issue.

Seafarers need to be supported and enabled in the essential role they play in our societies so that the human factor does not fail and make the recovery stage from this pandemic more difficult.


Chartering (Wet:Soft-/ Dry:Soft-)


The dry bulk market witnessed another negative week on the back of negative performance for the bigger sizes, while the period market remained disappointing both in terms of activity and rate ideas. The BDI today (19/05/2020) closed at 453 points, up by 26 points compared to Monday’s (18/05/2020) levels and increased by 20 points when compared to previous Tuesday’s closing (12/05/2020). Following the recent negative performance of crude carriers rates, the tanker market appeared to be a bit more balanced last week. The BDTI today (19/05/2020) closed at 818, decreased by 52 points and the BCTI at 652, a decrease of 312 points compared to previous Tuesday’s (12/05/2020) levels.   


Sale & Purchase (Wet: Stable-/ Dry:Firm+)


It seems that the substantial discounts in asset prices have finally enticed more Buyers to leave the sidelines and start investing in the dry bulk sector that has been seeing increased activity as a result in the past few days, while on the tanker front the market remained relatively quiet for a second week in a row. In the tanker sector we had the sale of the “DAEWOO 5473” (300,000dwt-blt ‘20, S. Korea), which was sold to Greek owner, Thenamaris, for a price in the region of $94.0m. On the dry bulker side sector we had the sale of the “TRENTA” (56,838dwt-blt ‘10, China), which was sold to Indonesian buyers, for a price in the region of $6.75m.


Newbuilding (Wet: Stable+/Dry: Soft-)


The number of the weekly surfacing newbuilding deals remained distinctively low, while the very little confirmed activity concerned exclusively tanker deals. With contracting volumes keep witnessing anaemic volumes, it is only natural that price ideas are still correcting downwards (sometimes even within a couple of weeks time), while comparing today’s price levels to those back in the beginning of the year, we see that the biggest discounts have been recorded in dry bulk prices. Indeed, all asset classes in the sector have seen a decrease ranging from 4% (Capes) up to 7% (Ultramaxes), while on the other hand, tanker newbuilding asset values have managed to resist much better so far, with declines in all sizes ranging from 0.9-1.5%. In terms of recently reported deals, Greek owner, Pleiades, placed an order for one firm Aframax crude carrier (114,000 dwt) at Daehan, in South Korea for an undisclosed price and delivery set in 2021.          


Demolition (Wet:Soft-/ Dry: Soft-)


This has been another slow week on the demolition front, with easing restrictions across the typical demo destination countries in the Indian subcontinent market allowing for a few sales to take place, while given the fact that  some cash buyers have been already displaying increased interest, it seems that activity wise the market should return to normality soon after the full re-opening takes place. Demo bids remain under pressure at the same time and despite the fact that scrap steel prices have been witnessing improved levels lately, while given the excess supply of demo candidates we expect to see once operations resume in their entirety, it seems highly unlikely to witness substantially positive price improvements at least throughout the first half of the summer season. Average prices in the different markets last week ranged for tankers between $160-320/ldt and those for dry bulk units between $150-305/ldt.


Wet Chartering


The past days have seen a lack of clear direction in the crude carriers market, while despite the uncertain momentum that prevailed, owners managed to put forth more resistance compared to the first week of May. The period market remained particularly busy, with some very impressive numbers still managing to emerge despite the fact that average spot levels are now well below the most recent highs. Consensus believes that the additional output cuts by the Saudis in June, will push the market to even more realistic levels, while on the oil price front, 2-month highs have been recorded on the back of recent cuts and hopes of demand rebounding.

With activity in the Middle East and West Africa markets picking up last week, VL owners managed to avoid further rate discounts, while the period market remained very busy, with rate ideas moving even higher as a result.

West Africa Suezmax enquiry was soft, allowing charters to regain some control in the region, while increasing pressure was also evident in Black Sea/Med as the week came to an end. Aframax rates moved in different directions, with substantial premiums noted in the Caribs and North Sea, while in total contrast, Med numbers lost more support as tonnage supply in the region was overwhelming compared to the number of fresh cargoes.


Dry Chartering


The dry bulk market remained under extreme pressure last week on the back of substantial discounts noted in rates for Capes and Panamaxes, while discounts were also evident on period ideas for the bigger sizes. With average earnings across the board well below or slightly above OPEX, it is safe to say that sentiment has hit a new low, while as uncertainty persists we expect the market to remain shaky at least for the short term.

Capes continued on their downward trajectory, with large discounts being recorded for all reported routes and with the BCI falling below zero shortly before rising again at 26 points as the week came to an end. We have been seeing a rebound in the past few days but this has hardly allowed for optimism to be restored as last week’s sharp drop has come as a harsh reminder that the market for the big bulkers remains very fragile. 

Panamax activity was overall soft, with the evident lack of enquiry in the Continent weighing on rates, while despite the steady flow of Brazilian cargoes, the market there remained under the control of charterers amidst excess supply of tonnage. In the Pacific, a fresh injection of minerals cargoes provided some coverage to ballasting vessels but without any positive effects on rates being realized.

The smaller sizes on the other hand outperformed the rest of the market and ended the week with small gains. A sufficient injection of Indonesian coal cargoes supported Supramax rates in the region, while the pressure in Handysize average earnings due to the quiet Atlantic was entirely offset by the evidently more upbeat market in the East.



Eva Tzima

Yiannis Parganas











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