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Maritime News

Shipping confidence levels rise to highest For 2015

Overall confidence levels in the shipping industry rose in the 3months ended August 2015 to their highest level this year, according to our latest Shipping Confidence Survey. Respondents to the survey were concerned predominantly about low freight rates and overtonnaging, with continuing doubts also expressed about private equity funding.

In August 2015, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.9 on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). This compares to the 5.3 recorded in May 2015, which equalled the lowest figure recorded in the life of the survey, launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.

All main categories of respondent recorded an increase in confidence this time, most notably charterers (up from 4.2 to 6.5) and owners (up from 5.1 to 5.8). The confidence of brokers, meanwhile, was up from 4.8 to 5.2, and that of managers from 6.1 to 6.4.

Geographically, confidence was up in Asia from 4.9 to 5.8, in Europe from 5.3 to 5.9, and in North America from 6.0 to 6.3.

While some respondents were confident that the shipping markets would improve in line with economic developments, others were more cautious. One said, “The shipping markets have been over-stocked, and there has been far too much interest from non-traditional shipping sources with no real clue how these intricate markets work. Once built, the ships are there! The low oil cost means the drive for alternative fuels and cheaper propulsion is not being followed as diligently as one might have expected.”

A number of respondents echoed the concern about the potentially harmful effect of the entry into the market of non-traditional shipping sources, while there was the usual level of concern about too many ships and too little scrapping. Increased regulation was another recurring topic, with one respondent complaining, “Regulations are going to kill us!”

Another respondent emphasised, “Current market conditions realistically reflect tonnage oversupply in all sectors. Until this corrects itself, global trade patterns will skew supply over demand. Shipping decisions are very often made on sentiment, but current confidence cannot be based on this.” Another still said, “Expect a static trend for the next few years. It might require a major conflagration to kick-start the industry. That may sound unpleasant, but without it we are in for a lengthy stay in the doldrums.”

“Everything seems to be operating on the two-steps-forward-and-one-back principle, alternating with the one-step-forward and two-back principle!” said one respondent,When another cautioned, “Today’s shipping market is really competitive and we need to be more careful in choosing good and reputable principals.”

The likelihood of respondents making a major investment or significant development over the next 12 months was up on the previous survey, on a scale of 1 to 10, from 5.0 to 5.3, equalling the highest figure over the past 12 months. All main categories of respondent were more confident in this regard than they were three months ago, most notably charterers (up from 4.5 to 6.1).

The World Trade Organisation forecasts that growth in the volume of world trade will rise from 2.8% in 2014 to 4.0% in 2016. Again, that is good news for shipping. World trade carried by sea is also on the increase and, despite the current difficult economic climate, the longer-term outlook for the industry remains positive as emerging economies continue to increase their requirements for seaborne goods and raw materials.

So the long-term outlook for shipping offers encouragement to existing and new investors alike. Those who are not attracted by the longer-term prospects meanwhile will doubtless exit the industry, and in the process may help solve some of its problems.

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