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Clarksons: Strongest Half Year For Shipping Markets Since 2008

A year on from peak trade disruption, we update our half year report for the shipping industry profiling a strong recovery and some exceptional individual markets. While previous years’ reports have mentioned “must do better” or “extra classes needed”, even the toughest of examiners would congratulate (tankers aside!?) shipping’s economic performance during the many continued challenges of the pandemic.

Grading the Segments
Our cross-sector ClarkSea Index averaged an encouraging $20,717/day in 1H, up 27% y-o-y and 64% above trend (since 2009, see graph). This also represents the strongest six months for the index since the “heady” days of 2008. The star performer has been the “red hot” container market which has seen record highs, while bulkers also deserve a merit award with their best half year since 2010. LPG earnings were down on 2020 averages but still 21% above trend while LNG, despite some ups and downs, were close to trend. Although there are mitigating circumstances (oil trade is still down 10% on pre-Covid levels and floating storage has “unwound”) tanker earnings averaged their lowest half year period for 30+ years and will be hoping for improvements after the summer. Car carriers have picked up nicely to move 5% above trend (impressive as rates touched all-time lows last year) while Ro-Ro freight has also shown resilience. Offshore oil and gas has improved but still remained ~30% below trend (for a North Sea PSV)

Demand Improvements…
After “losing” ~500mt of trade in 2020, we now estimate that volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels (in May-20 trade was down 12%). Again a special commendation to containers, with a combination of pent up demand, shifts in consumer spending and economic recovery supporting projected trade of 207m TEU this year, up 6% on 2020. Balancing economic recovery, stimulus, further Covid19 waves and uncertainty over the duration of “supportive” disruption, we project over 12bt of total seaborne trade in 2021.

Supply “Favourable”?
In our previous review, we gave shipping supply an “A for effort”, reflecting on an orderbook under 10% of the fleet (it’s still 8%). Fleet growth of 1.7% in 1H (growth of 36m dwt) remains below trend, although newbuild ordering (24m CGT, $55bn) has picked up to its busiest six months since 2014, surpassing full year 2020 orders (although steel prices and currency movements may make similar order intake in 2H more difficult for yards). However, the stellar S&P market achieved “top marks” with all time record transactions (>85m dwt, up 131% on 1H20 and 31% on 2H, and more than double the long term trend!). At this run rate, ~8% of the fleet will change ownership in 2021. We reported 12m dwt of demo, up 14% on 1H-20 but down 12% on 2H-20.

Those Extra Classes …..
With recovering activity, we estimate that shipping’s emissions have edged up slightly to ~840mt and 2.4% of global CO2. Given the “amplified” focus on energy transition and the developments at IMO (and pending announcements from the EU), let’s hope those extra “classes” on “green and tech” we recommended a few years ago have come in handy (over 25% of orders in 1H were for alternative fuelled vessels). Our continued best wishes from Clarksons Research.
Source: Clarksons Research

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