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Shipping Needs to Change its Business Model to Survive Future Crises

The shipping industry is in front of a monumental shift in its way of doing business, as the risk assessment tools of the past no longer apply, when it comes to making informed investment decisions. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Allied said that “under such poorly performing market circumstances, many usually take the historical approach, in order to better understand and further analyze the present state of the market. However, to what degree is this a “fair” comparison to undertake right now?”

According to Allied’s analysis, “the freight collapse of 2016 in the dry bulk sector has been a reference case for every discussion when the market has undergone any severe downward pressure. However, despite its excessive impact, it was a “known” situation, or to put it more bluntly, it was ‘an accident waiting to happen’. The excess tonnage capacity was the result of the massive new order activity that had taken place in years prior, as well as, the disconnected relationship of demand and supply fundamentals, eventually pushing freight earnings to their perceived absolute bottom. After that, the market started to adapt to this new market reality, with more modest orderbook activity and, for a time, massive scrapping activity. This “rebalancing” phase helped translate over to a 2-year period of ever-improving freight market conditions (with some minor corrections here and there), coupled by a more stable market with lower volatility.

Source: Allied

Allied’s Research Analyst, Mr. Thomas Chasapis said that “suddenly though, from the later part of 2018 the picture was promptly altered. This high-risk environment is not something new for the shipping industry, nor are the periodical exaggerations and asymmetries in realized earnings. However, having experienced a series of single shock events in such a short period of time, it comes naturally to question the robustness of the different business models. Tail risks and “black swans”, won’t be just catch phrases, but a change in investment attitude while we enter a new “era” of how we quantify different kinds of market risks (and their likelihood of being fulfilled)”.

Chasapis added that “the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted most business activities worldwide, with the possible outcomes being numerous and presenting multiple decision directions to practitioners. In other words, we are in a genuine situation, where an absolute comparison to previously noted similar excessive negative pressures would be, to say the least, misleading. Prior to the beginning of this year, the discussion revolved around the potential of a two-tier market unfolding, depending on what type of fuel each vessel would burn. As it turns out and from all that has transpired, we may be experiencing a multi-tier freight market”.

Allied’s analyst noted that “the Pacific market is in sharp negative territory in terms of earnings, while in the Atlantic, things are relatively more promising (even if not particularly good). Moreover, especially for scrubbers-fitted units, freight rates are following a completely different orbit than what is presented by the quoted Baltic freight indices. The asymmetrical freight market is one of the many bizarre things happening right now. With a certain time-lag, asset prices are likely to follow this steep downward correction (this has not fully materialized yet)”.

Source: Allied

“With the market in disarray, where uncertainty is the prevailing sentiment, the mispricing of different asset classes is the obvious outcome. The bargain attitude, as well as, the short-term unpredictable outlook has created an excessive “bid-ask spread”, indicating a market in distress, unable to properly price both the future risks and trends involved. 2020 has already shown to be a challenging year. Even with a very weak short-term outlook, the market may well absorb most of the negative side effects and eventually return to an upward track much sooner than many expect. Despite this however, the longer-term macroeconomic trends are still troubling. China is already facing the possibility of losing around 0.5% points from its projected growth for this year, something that would translate over to a significant step back in global seaborne trade”, Chasapis concluded .
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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