Good news for panamax shipowners emerged as the dispute between the United States
and Japan over the genetically modified maize StarLink appeared to be over, brokers said. Japan's Agriculture Ministry said
it had agreed to a U.S. plan for testing corn to be shipped to Japan for animal feed to ensure that it does not include StarLink. Brokers said the news was optimistic as it meant the usual U.S. maize trade to Japan would
be able to resume in earnest, adding that panamaxes trading towards the U.S. Gulf could therefore look forward to an increase in demand over the holiday period and beyond.
Of the fixtures reported recently for U.S. Gulf shipment, the 1998-built 72,474 dwt Mar Reina has been booked for a voyage charter from the U.S. Gulf to Egypt.
The ship is due to load a 60,000-ton heavy grain cargo at a freight rate of $14.00 per ton. Loading is scheduled to take place between December 27, 2000 and January 5, 2001.
The rate compares well with the $13 per ton negotiated for the same route at the start of December for prompt loading dates, though the market has some way to go before the $16.50 per ton levels of early November are revisited. Shipbrokers said they expected the existing upward trend for panamax freight rates to persist through to the end of the week.
With new business expected out of the US Gulf, it is also possible that the usually quiet period between Christmas and the New Year could be more active than previously expected, they said, adding that panamax business from South America was also showing signs of being very active for the time of year. - (Reuters)