Small Ships the Potential Bright Spot in Miserable Dry Bulk Market

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 16, 2016

The latest Dry Bulk Freight Forecaster from Maritime Strategies International (MSI) reports a deterioration of the consultancy’s cautiously optimistic view for improvement in the dry bulk market in the next six months.
Misery piled on misery for dry bulk owners in January as spot and timecharter rates reached new lows. Demand plummeted for a majority of dry cargoes and in the iron ore markets, a temporary hiatus in activity at Tubarao briefly dented Brazilian exports, whilst Australian exports were curtailed by weather disruptions during the cyclone season.
The beginning of the year is typically marked by a spike in recorded vessel deliveries, and January 2016 was no exception. Deliveries surged to 7.2m dwt, more than double average monthly deliveries during 2015. This was partly offset by a jump in vessels scrapped to 4.6 m dwt, the largest total since 5.6 m dwt was demolished in April 2015.
Positive news is limited to the demand side and centred around strong expectations for grains exports from Latin America. The International Grains Council forecasts a year on year increase of 14% in the 2015/16 crop year, the impact of which will be concentrated in Q2 and likely to magnified by technical factors.
MSI also expects iron ore trade will improve beyond March as supplies improve from Australia and Brazil, prices fall and Chinese production declines.
Will Fray, Senior Analyst at MSI said, “MSI’s assessment has taken a step back given recent news over the state of the coal market, in particular Indian imports; without a recovery in coal trade this year, it is unlikely that spot rates will reach double figures for any bulker benchmark over the next six months, even Capesize vessels.”
The positive impact of stronger Latin American grains trade will be leveraged by increased port congestion. In 2013, delays reached nearly 100 days at Paranagua port and whilst measures have been taken to prevent a repeat occurrence, port waiting times are already up to 50 days.
This will be partly offset by Malaysia's three-month ban on Bauxite mining, which came into effect on the January 15. Port stockpiles will continue to be shipped, but overall MSI expects a delayed removal of about 1.5-2m tonnes of short-haul exports per month.
MSI remains cautiously optimistic for geared bulkers when compared with the very weak outlook presented by the current FFA curve, forecasting Supramax spot rates of $6,000/day in July, compared with current July contracts in the FFA market of $4,900/day.
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