Panamax operators are poised for an improvement in freight rates after receiving indications that the seasonal slump has passed, shipbrokers said on Tuesday.
Reports emerged of off-market trips done at firmer levels than of late, at some $8,000 daily for bookings on the key U.S. Gulf to Far East route, giving the market some confidence that prospects for the panamax sector were brightening, they said.
This was the first sign of an upturn since the summer slowdown dented panamax trade at the start of July, they added, with the rise in modern panamax bookings at stable levels giving a solid indication that the market may have reached its bottom.
South African panamax movements held steady at $6,000 daily for Continent discharge, providing another sign that the summer slide had been halted, shipbrokers said.
London broker Galbraiths reported that at least one major charterer was still looking for tonnage from the U.S. Gulf to Egypt for a nearby heavy grains cargo.
However, shipbrokers cited one note of negativity in the day's trading with reports that steam coal stocks in Europe and Richards Bay were at dangerously high levels.
"Panamaxes have been effectively feeding off the capesize market from Richards Bay but the stockpile situation in Europe could ruin this cozy set-up," said a broker.
"The Chinese are offering competitive prices which could be enough to reduce Richards Bay to Europe panamax trading opportunities," he added.