Liner Revolution Eats Its Own Children


Former Lloyd’s Shipping Economist contributor Andrew Craig-Bennett has written, in Splash24/7, one of the best thought pieces on the state of liner shipping. I have reproduced the article below, but it is worth following the link to the comments, too.

The liner revolution eats its children – Splash 24/7

What do you call a multi-billion-dollar global business in which the boards of directors of almost every large company in the trade, finding that they are losing money because they are making more of their product than they can sell at a profit, decide to make much, much, more of it?

Answer: liner shipping.

There are two possibilities: either the directors on those boards have the brainpower of jellyfish, or they thought they had a cunning plan.

The cunning plan was to cut their unit cost of manufacture of their product, carriage by sea for ISO containers, by building ever bigger ships and gaining economies of scale, to the point where competitors would just give up and get out of the business, at which point the last men standing, one of whom would be Danish, would jack the rates back up again and, combining their low unit cost with quasi-monopoly control, they would become immensely rich.

The cunning plan looked quite good to start with.

Ever since Temasek gave up on Neptune Orient Lines, and particularly since the Korea Development Bank threw in the towel and stopped propping up Hanjin, liner companies have been merging.

When businesses merge, it is said that the devil is always in the detail. The grinding of the gears that accompanies a merger makes the merging businesses less efficient for a while. Certainly this is true of those mergers which are brought about, not by the ability of the acquiring company to pay more for the target company than the target company’s shareholders think it is worth, but by what is politely known in East Asia as ‘administrative guidance’. These mergers never happen when times are good, only when times are dire, and they are accompanied by the gentle tinkling sounds of breaking rice bowls.

So far, so good for the cunning plan.

The liner shipping industry is experiencing the fate that some of us predicted for it when Directorate-General IV of the EU Commission hearkened unto the European Shippers’ Councils and decided that conferences were a bad thing. The upshot is likely to be that the world is left with perhaps half a dozen ‘full service’ containerlines, plus a number of regional trade liner companies sitting more or less comfortably in the niches that they have carved out for themselves.

This makes life particularly grim for the smaller fry; the multitudes of private and family companies, often highly geared, who are owners of tramp boxboats. Just a few years ago, these people thought they had found the golden ticket – all they had to do was to order bog standard boxboats, man them with warm bodies, and charter them to the big liner companies, who were no longer much interested in the dull business of running ships. Which was fine until the big liner companies built behemoths.

Today, the tramp containership owners are starting to discover what it was like to be an independent tanker owner in 1983… the year in which Elf Aquitaine scrapped the world’s second biggest ship, the ULCC Pierre Guillaumat – named after their chairman – at six years old. Who wants a panamaxboxboat, now?

Meanwhile, the next part of the cunning plan, seen by the staff of the big liner companies as ‘The Good Bit’, comes into play, as the surviving giant containerlinescan at last do what their staff have wanted to do for decades, and put the bite on the forwarders, by jacking up their rates and shutting them out.

But the problem with the cunning plan rears its ugly head. Owners of unwanted tramp boxboats can either scrap them, at tender ages, or do something else with them, just at the time when big forwarders, controlling worthwhile cargo volumes on certain routes, find themselves shut out.
The solution is obvious and not even difficult to put into effect– Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers become Vessel Operating Common Carriers, by chartering ships, cheap, from the desperate tramp owners. The NVOCCs know all about the liner business; all they need to do is to hire a few operations people, appoint agents, and buy bunkers.

Presto! A whole new generation of liner shipping companies, carrying negligible debt or overhead, springs up like the dragon’s teeth and starts to out-compete the ‘legacy’ big shipping lines.

And thus the container revolution eats its children. Amongst the legacy liner companies, few are very old. They saw off the old guard of the conference carriers – even the boys in blue were once ‘tolerated outsiders’ – and soon they, in turn, will be swallowed up by, in effect, ‘virtual’ liner companies.

Who loses in this orgy of value destruction? At first glance, the banks, but the banks are bailed out by the taxpayers. Which is to say, gentle reader, that the people who lose are you and I.

 

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What Will be the Impact when the Newly Extended Panama Canal Locks Open?


What will be the impact on shipping when the newly extended Panama Canal open today (26th June 2016)? Figure one below shows the physical changes to the dimensions of the old and new locks on the Panama Canal (time lapse video of the construction).

Fig 1 New Panama Canal Dimensions
Under the old dimensions, the widest containership that could pass through the Canal was one with a beam of 33m – Panamax (3,000 to 5,999 TEU). The ships are pulled through the old locks by “donkeys”, which are small gauge locomotives, and often a sea cadet on his first passage would be given a bucket of water and told to water the donkeys. Interestingly, there has not been any clear indication from the Panama Canal Authourity if the old locks will continue to be operated in parallel with the new locks. These old Panamax containerships make up around 16% of the current capacity of the containership fleet.

Fig 2 New and Old Panamax Containerships
As trade increased, and due to changes in trade routes, containerships wider than 33m were built. In theory, these older Post-Panamax containership (3,000 to 9,999 TEU – see figure 2) will be able to use the new locks, too. These currently make up 22% of the fleet.

The New Panamax (10,000 to 13,399 TEU) containership, also known as Neo-Panamax, currently makes up 18% of fleet by capacity, according to mapping, ship search and valuation provider, VaesselsValue, but it is expected that this sector will replace the old Post-Panamax.

It is expected that the old Panamax containerships will cascade downwards into the other sectors, and may even “interfere” with the Feedership trades (1,100 TEU), should the rates decline to comparable levels. This will most likely decrease the values of old Panamax vessels, and may lead to a new round of sales for scrapping.

Fig 3 Seatime Savings

The increase in capacity able to pass through the new locks and the sea-time savings (see figure three) for the larger ships will be significant, but the impact is hard to assess until the liners start using the new locks.

The top five New Pananax containership owners are shown below (figure 4).

Fig 4 New Panamax Owners

According to some studies, the opening of the new locks could double the volume of total trade (tankers, dry bulk carriers, containerships and gas) passing through the Panama Canal. So far, the emphasis has been on the liner trades and their use of the new locks on the Panama Canal, but the LPG and LNG gas carriers are expected to be significant users, too.

Posidonia: Lloyd’s List Briefing – Current State of Shipping


Sunday 5 June 2016.

The Lloyd’s List Briefing is now a traditional sharpener for Posidonia week. The event was presented by Richard Meade, the Editor of Lloyd’s List, assisted by head of the Greek desk, Nigel Lowry.

Christopher Palsen, the head of Lloyd’s List Intelligence research kicked off the event by setting the scene and offering his explanation of where shipping was, and why.

He posited that the dry bulk fleet now consisted of 11,149 ships, with a capacity of 784m dwt. With a substantial portion of the bulker fleet idle (average age 18.5 years), why had there been any ordering at all in this sector since 2008? The answer, in his opinion, was Chinese interests. Specifically, the five-year plan for 50% of imports into China to be carried by Chinese-owned ships. The result was a massive shipbuilding programme. This has flooded the market, but it has kept Chinese shipyards busy, and the cost of transport low. He also made the point that Chinese coastal (non-deep sea) shipping carries an estimated 2.5bn tonnes (of which 1bn tonnes is coal) on coastal ships. He admitted LLI had very little information on this fleet, except that it was very old, and was being replaced by modern deep-sea ships.

According to LLI, the global tanker fleet consist of 2,003 ships (this is too small for the whole fleet and is probably only the largest sectors – CJ) with a capacity of 367m dwt, of which 29m dwt was being used for storage. The orderbook stands at 64m dwt. He asked if there would be enough demand for all this tonnage?

According to LLI, there are 5,292 container ships, with a capacity of 19.8m TEU, with another 3.9m TEU on order. The key with this fleet is efficiency. He felt that there was significant growth potential in converting Chinese general cargo and break bulk cargoes into containised shipping.

On the economic demand side, Mr Palsen felt that the slower growth in China ( about half the past averages), was still robust. In his opinion, the drivers in the future will be India and other Asian countries.

On the energy side, according to Mr Palsen, around 85% of energy demand is supplied from hydrocarbons, and even if renewables grow fast as 15% pa, after a decade of growth, this would mean hydrocarbons still accounted for 75% of energy supply. He noted that shale gas production has resulted in the decoupling of the gas price and oil prices in US. It would appear that Saudi Arabia (by flooding the crude oil market) was winning the battle to kill off some smaller US opertors. But if the oil price rose again, would these fields come back onto the market?

Fast neue Frachter fahren in die Schrottpresse – DIE WELT


Erstmals nehmen Reedereien Schiffe nach nur 14 Jahren aus ihren Flotten und verkaufen sie an Wertstoffhändler. Üblich sind bisher 22 Jahre. Die Frachter werden nicht mehr gebraucht

Source: Fast neue Frachter fahren in die Schrottpresse – DIE WELT

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