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Newbuilding Activity Heavily Impacted by the Pandemic and Environmental Regulations

The newbuilding activity has been severely impacted by the effects of the pandemic on global trade and shipping in general, with owners scaling back their investments. It’s a situation, in which one has to include the already high uncertainty caused by the environmental regulations. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “the uneventful summer lull which is coming to an end soon has left its stigma on the newbuilding market, which has already been devastated by the global social and economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic during the first half of 2020.

Source: Intermodal

According to Yiannis Parganas, Market Analyst with Intermodal, “the newbuilding sector has been rather discouraging in terms of its activity levels over the past summer lull period of time. Over the past summer months, the asset investment decision between purchasing a newbuilding versus a modern secondhand dry bulk vessel has been illustrated. Owners are inclined to choose respective modern ships owing to the lucrative price discounts on display over pricey, time and capital intensive newbuildings. Both vessel investments do not differ significantly in terms of operational efficiencies. Sectoral newbuilding analysis has shown that dry bulk vessel orders remained at significant lows over the past summer months whereas tanker candidates (especially MR and clean product vessels) monopolized the global vessel orderbook with volumes however being at low levels”.

Parganas said that “owners are not able to pin down their future green fleet-composition strategies adding an extra burden on shipyards which are already struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. The shipping industry’s “divided” view on the commercial and long-term implementation feasibility of eco-friendliness and sustainability is causing concern and investment ambiguity. The key rationale behind this uncertainty is that there is a need to promote decarbonization in shipping by reducing its carbon footprint. This will be achieved through the further digitization of vessels and their navigation technologies. Current eco-friendly alternatives in shipping include LNG-fueled vessels & carrier of ammonia, alternative propulsion fuels and batteries. The path towards greener shipping is non-trivial and most definitely non-obvious. Therefore, this cloud of uncertainty regarding eco-friendliness has adversely impacted newbuilding orders”.

Source: Intermodal

According to Intermodal’s analyst, “this widespread scepticism is more than justified when taking the example of scrubbers into consideration. Up to now scrubber installations have simultaneously seen a decent amount of praise and criticism. Scrubbers have not yet been proven to be environmentally friendly and their exact effects on the environment remain to be seen. In the end of 2019, the low Sulphur to high Sulphur fuel oil price differential was over $350/ton, which rendered the decision to install scrubbers an intuitive one. However, with the differential falling to below half the aforementioned value, scrubber adoptions have seen a rapid cessation, and this has adversely impacted the respective investor sentiment for eco-friendly newbuildings further”.

“The last quarter of the year is ahead us, however the economic fundamentals remain weak and poised towards a bleak year over year newbuilding orderbook. The soft freight market activity in both the dry bulk and tanker sector coupled with the aforementioned necessity for environmentally friendly adoptions have pushed potential newbuilding investors to the sidelines. This new reality, has intensified the competition among shipyards for the less available newbuilding order market share. Nonetheless, in every crisis there is always a story silver lining which in the newbuilding front is depicted by the smiles of owners who are destined to see a substantial overall fleet supply decrease with the current year contracting activity being analogous to the 2017 very low levels”, Parganas concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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