Asian Panamax freight rates for dry bulk cargo bounced back this week and shipping agents said a recovery would become more evident with the start of South American export seasons in March. "Chartering activity is much more active than last week and we saw a substantial number of fixtures this week," said an executive at a shipping firm which operates Panamax-class business.
For the benchmark U.S. Gulf to Japan route
, freight rates were quoted higher on Friday at $21.775 per ton against $21.164 one week earlier, while freight rates in the Pacific were at $16.986 compared to $16.614. Brokers attributed the pullback in freight rates partly to ship owners raising prices on expectations of brisk cargo demand later in March when South American farmers began to export their crops. Persistent vessel demand for coal or iron ore shipments from Australia
to northeastern Asian nations also offered support to the freight market, brokers said.
Despite an expected arrival of a large number of newly-built vessels beginning from March or April, brokers said growing demand from South America would help offset the negative factor. One domestic shipbroker optimistically forecast that freight rates for the U.S. Gulf to Japan route could rise to as high as $24-25 with the Pacific route firming to a peak of $18-19.
The Asian Panamax cargo market had been in the doldrums over the past few weeks as an oversupply of vessels dragged freight rates down. Brokers said the Panamax market was likely to stay on an upward trend until May, when the summer season usually depresses grain consumption and slowes vessel demand. - (Reuters)