Influence of the Chinese New Year on Shipping

The Clarksea Index hit an all-time low last week when it fell $223/day to $7,111/day. Of course, shipping slows down each year with the arrival of the Chinese New Year, when the whole country closes down and everyone goes on holiday. Each year, as China’s influence on shipping has grown, so has the impact of the holiday. This year the difference between the last working week and the first week of the holidays was a drop of -2.74% in the Clarksea Index. This is a relatively small amount compared to the last five years (see chart), but then there is little fat left in the Clarksea Index, which has already lost nearly 20% of its value since the start of 2013.

Influence of the Chinese New Year on Shipping (Feb 2013)

This begs the question how low can the Clarksea Index go? The Clarksea Index is made up of the average weekly earnings of the main shipping sectors weighted by the number of vessels in those sectors. Generally, the diverse sectors tend to balance one another out. A bad week in VLCCs can be cancelled out by a good week for the Capesize or the VLGCs. This can lead to steep falls. During the Boom the Clarksea Index fell over $5,000/day in one week in early 2008, but this only brought it to $37,606/day and few heeded the warning sign.

 We are a long way from those heady days, and the Clarksea Index, which is the heart rate monitor of the industry, is now worryingly low. My gut feeling is that $6,000/day is the lowest it could possible go. However, it is not usual for individual routes to go into negative earnings, pulling down that sector. Last week, for instance, the VLCC route Middle East Gulf (MEG) to Europe and MEG to US Gulf fell to Worldscale (WS) 18.0 and WS 18.5, respectively. If any VLCC was to fix at these rates the equivelent earnings per day are a loss of around -$17,000/day. The tanker sector is not the only one showing negative earnings last week. Some of the Capesize routes and Panamax dry bulk routes went negative. Fortunatley this downward drag was halted by buoyancy from the gas sector (pun intended). But in theory it would be possible for enough routes to post negative earnings for the Clarksea Index itself to go negative. Then the Year of the Dead Duck will be upon us.


How many Shipping Conferences are there in 2013?

I identified 25 different conference subjects covering the shipping vessel type sectors, cargo, trades and business activity. I went through the websites of the usual conference organisers and googled the key words. The result is a listing of over 100 shipping conferences scheduled for 2013. I have posted these onto the calendar. The calendar contains a reasonably good search function, and you can search a conference by the type, organiser and location. Send me a comment to post up a shipping conference, a shipping social gathering or a shipping event of interest to the calendar (public posting doesn’t seem to work).


  • The most popular subject is Shipping Finance (20). Marine Money and Mare Forum have a ship finance conference happening somewhere most months.
  • Ports are the next most popular subject mainly organised by Transport Events.
  • Offshore is a close second, mainly in Houston and London.
  • Did you know there is a Short Sea Conference in Paris this year? No, I didn’t either, but I hope to be going (14 March 2013).
  • London remains the most popular location for all shipping conferences, which is a surprise after I found that most shipping job postings are in Singapore. However, Singapore is second, followed by Shanghai and Hamburg.
  • But the best conference location goes to the Pacific Basin Coal Conference. If you are quick you can still get there. It starts this Sunday in Waikiki at the Hilton Hawaiian Beach Resort.

Shipping Calendar

I have compiled a single calendar of shipping events, simply as a useful tool to see what’s going on. At the moment it is mainly composed of ship finance and sector specific conferences and exhibitions. The calendar is a separate page on my shipping research blog.

I have made the calendar “public”. Therefore, owners and organisers of the events can add add URLs and marketing information. Feel free to post dates of product launches and other PR events. We can also use it to organise shipping social events.

Shipping Book Club

Anybody interested in a shipping book club? Below is a list of books I have read recently that have the commercial realities of shipping at their core. I learnt something new about shipping from each of these books, and each is worth a space on your Kindle. I still chortle to myself when I remember Matt McCleery’s description of a kids soccer game in “The Shipping Man”. The novel feels almost autobiographical with a whiff of that was nearly me.

Shipping Book Club List

John Guy is famous for his long walks, but I don’t think his “The Reluctant Pirate” is an explanation for one of his absences. It does ring true to life, and in his position as PR may have brought him close to some of the City types in the book.

One man I would like to meet, if a little warily, is Max Hardberger (that is his real name). Today his business lifestyle would be prime reality TV fodder alongside “Ice Truckers” and “Swamp-Loggers”. He is a ship and plane repo man working the non-tourist side of the Caribbean. The writing is easy to read and races along, but then he has a degree in English among his other qualifications.

All three writers would aspire to the success and revenue Joseph Wamburgh has generated as an author. Once a full time cop in LA, Wamburgh’s books are anecdotes of police action strung around a central theme. In his latest book “Harbour Nocturne” the theme is true love in the unlikely surroundings of San Pedro Bay (pee-dro), which we know as the Port of LA / Long Beach and the largest container (cans) port in the US. If you want to know why US ports have labour issues, read “Harbour Nocturne”.

 Please let me know if you have read any good shipping books recently.

LinkedIn Shipping Groups

I belong to 37 shipping groups on LinkedIn. These range from the “need-to-be-a-member” like Lloyd’s List (8,905 members) to the obscure Shipping Container Investments (35 members). The table below is my list of groups ranked by the number of members as at February 14 2013.


LinkedIn Shipping Groups Feb 2013


Originally I joined groups that might direct me toward a new job, and that is still the main aim. Since re-donning the press hat I am also find LinkedIn useful for producing polls and finding experts. Therefore my request is; do you know of any other shipping-related groups you have found useful that are not on the list?

Capesize Orderbook down to 17% of the Fleet

The Capesize orderbook has shrunk from a high of 117% of the fleet in Q4 2008 to just 17% today. Of course, in the meantime the Capesize fleet has swollen from 141.84m dwt (817 ships) to 278.87m dwt (1505 ships), according to Clarkson Research data. Nonetheless, the slowdown in new orders brings the orderbook as a percentage of the fleet down to the level of Q3 2003. There is still another 36.4m dwt to be delivered in 2013, which is actually larger than the total Capesize fleet of thirty years ago.

Clarkson Research list three Capesize thirty year old or older as still live on their database. These include an Odense Lindo-built vessel, the 1982-built, 136,999 dwt “RAM PRASAD” operated by Essar Shipping. After launch she worked for the Danish electricity producer Elsam for twenty years. Clarksons report the vessel was bought by Goldenport Holdings in June 2002, when the Capesize fleet as a mere 88.9m dwt (orderbook 8.1% of the fleet) for $5m. In March 2008, when the Capesize orderbook stood at 93% of the then fleet, Goldenport sold the 25-year old ship to Chinese interests for $25m. Goldenport booked a $20m profit on the sale of the “SAMOS” as she was then called, and traded the ship through one of the best Capesize cycles ever. Seven months later the Capesize market crashed. Shipping, like comedy, is all in the timing.

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