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Shipping Faced With Series of Unknown Variables in 2020

The shipping industry will have to plan ahead this year, using a number of assumptions and scenarios, which are expected to hurt global trade and cargo demand. For the most part, predicting where the market will be in a few weeks’ time is proving to be harder and harder, as there are various parameters in play.

In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Allied noted that “uncertainty in the global geopolitical sphere seems to have not come to an end along with 2019, as 2020 commenced with renewed tensions between the US and Iran. These events escalated considerably and once again brought to the forefront the possibility for further geopolitical instability and disruptions to the global economic ecosystem (including along with it the shipping markets). The shockwaves of the increased tensions between the two countries pushed oil price above the US$ 70 per barrel mark, while gold, the safe haven choice for investors, rose to a seven-year high of around US$1,575/oz”.

According to Allied’s, Research Analyst, Mr. Yiannis Vamvakas, “the slowdown noted during the last few days though has helped alleviate recent concerns regarding global trade, but nevertheless the initial signals of 2020 are not exactly encouraging. The risk of potential supply disruptions in the Middle East region has increased since last week, a fact that could generate significant problems for shipping routes from the Middle East Gulf to Europe and Asia. Despite the assurances made by Saudi Arabian officials that oil production and supply will not encounter any issues, no one can predict with certainty what the next steps by Iran or the U.S. will be”.

Vamvakas added that “oil and LNG are the commodities that are in the highest danger from the recent escalation in the tensions between Washington and Teheran. It is worth mentioning that the Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important oil chokepoint with the daily trade passing through in 2018 being estimated at 21 million b/d. Iran had in the past threatened to close the passage in case of war in the region. This uncertainty is likely to lead to higher freight rates in the region (possibly with higher risk insurance premiums), but with the impact that a further escalation may have to the global trade being yet difficult to predict”.

Meanwhile, “putting the Middle East conflict aside, focus is also placed on the continuing trade tension saga between the US and China, with Phase 1 of the trade deal between the two countries signed this week. The effect of this deal is questionable, as the 86-page agreement has not yet been made public, with several experts doubting how effective this deal is. Given that China’s growth rate is expected to decelerate even further this year (World Bank estimates a rate of 5.9% for 2020), market participants are waiting on the trade and economic data that China is expected to publish later this week in order to shape a better view as to the prospects of this Asian giant. The impact from the trade conflict were significant last year, with global trade growth being just 1.4%, the lowest since the 2008 financial crisis. This year global trade growth is expected to slightly improve but with the rate still remaining at comparatively low levels”, Allied’s analyst said.

He added that “meanwhile, at the end of this month, we also expect Britain to leave the EU, a step that will bring the two on the next phase of the negotiation process where the future trading relationship between the two sides will be discussed. The result of these negotiations and the impact that they may have on the global economy is still fairly sketchy. Furthermore, we must not forget that we have the US presidential elections set to take place this November, the result of which will surely have a long-term impact on the US, as well the global economy. All in all, global growth forecasts are not so optimistic for 2020, with several investment experts suggesting that the likelihood of recession this year has increased and even if we do not encounter one this year, the growth rate will remain close to the low of 2.3-2.5% that we witnessed last year as well”, Vamvakas concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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