With the BDI hitting an all-time low and FFA markets not showing any positive signs for a possible recovery in the near future, pessimism is still prevailing across the Dry Bulk sector. Average rates for all sizes are now trading below OPEX levels, rendering owners exposed to substantial loses. Apart from the existing tonnage surplus, for which we have talked a lot during the last years, anemic global growth and demand for dry bulk commodities have also pushed the BDI to its lowest historical point.
The decline of coal trade due to low demand from China is causing a big “headache” to Capesize and Panamax owners. Imports to China have been significantly reduced, since the local government is trying to shift away its dependency to coal for electricity production, to other renewable sources of energy. Despite that, other countries like India have increased coal imports but that has so far proved inadequate to substitute entirely the fall in Chinese imports. As a result, many Panamaxes and capers, which were engaged in coal trade, are shifting to iron ore trade where in terms of transferred volume we are witnessing a healthy trade growth despite the fact that rates here have also plummeted.
Iron ore exports to China from Australia and Brazil rose as stockpiles in Chinese ports had hit a 12-month low in the beginning of the year. Low iron ore price together with cheap transportation cost and Chinese New Year festivities around the corner is the reason behind the increased volumes of iron ore imports. This increase has helped the Capesize market to slightly pick up from its historical lower point ever recorded in January and witness improved rates, which nonetheless are still far from what could be described as decent.
Headlines regarding the dry bulk market are mostly negative these days, however in this bearish market there is some news which could be interpreted as positive signs, something that the market needs since this “crisis” is not only driven by its fundamental problems but also by sentiment. On one hand, iron ore imports could be soon increasing as demand from the Chinese steel industry is expected to rise on the back of the recently announced plan by the Chinese government to invest heavily (around USD1 trillion) in infrastructure projects as an attempt to support growth.
Secondly, activity in dry bulk demolition activity has increased the last month as a result of declining freight rates. As a matter of fact, in just one month’s time the number of Capesize vessels that were sold for scrap reached the number of Capesizes scrapped during the whole of 2014. Under this freight environment it is very likely that this trend will continue, helping the market alleviate some of the abundant tonnage. Finally, new building activity is declining because of both the current negative environment and also lack of finance to support these projects as a result of this environment. Also some contracted dry projects which have not commenced are now being swapped to wet projects allowing the substantial dry bulk order book to take a much needed breath.
A “perfect storm” is currently taking place in the Dry Bulk market. Overcapacity, anemic global growth, lack of demand for dry bulk cargoes and bearish sentiment amongst players, have all come together and pushed the market to its lowest point since 1986. But let’s not forget that during “perfect storms” there are always opportunities, as these are the exact points in a cycle when asset values hit attractive lows that makes investing suitable for asset play opportunities and fleet renewals, especially for those who have sat in the sideways all these years waiting for this exact “perfect storm”.
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