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Trade spats could dampen shipping growth this year

An escalation of tariff wars between China and the United States could dampen growth in international container shipping as operators pre-emptively brought forward business in the second half of last year, Germany’s Hapag Lloyd said.

“Many customers tried to get their goods through to the US ahead of time in second half 2018, creating additional growth,” Rolf Habben Jansen, chief executive of the company that is the world’s fifth biggest shipping liner, quoted as saying in Hamburg on Tuesday.

However, with European activities being relatively stable, a direct crisis was not on the horizon, and only later this year would it be clear whether there would be sustained damage to business, he said.

Shipping is only slowly recovering from an oversupply of vessels that plunged the sector into an almost decade-long slump, forcing some players out of business and others to combine forces to seek economies of scale.

Libya to develop mega port

A white foundation stone next to a deserted beach near the soporific Libyan port of Susah is all to show for a seven-year dream to build one of North Africa’s biggest ports. Yet officials say Libya is now in final talks to award a US firm a $1.5 billion deal to set up a “mega port” intended to transform the picturesque coast where families go for picnics into a vast container hub.

Texas-based security firm Guidry Group confirmed to Reuters it planned to sign a 35-year deal to build and operate the project in a region once occupied by the ancient Greeks, before handing it back to the local authority. Such major foreign investment would be rare for Libya, in chaos and conflict since the 2011 toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.

“The biggest container ships will be able to dock,” enthused one of the project’s main architects, Salah Elhasi, who heads the eastern port authority, in his modest villa-turned-office quoted as saying. Abdalla Al Hasse, a consultant for Guidry, said sea depth of up to 40 meters (130 feet) would enable containers to load goods on smaller vessels headed for other Libyan cities as well as neighbours like Egypt or Tunisia without similar ports.


Shipping rates a respite for GE shipping, but sustainability is key

Tracking the rebound in the tanker shipping rates, shares of Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd (GE Shipping) have gained as much as 22percent from the lows in July. Crude tanker rates represented by the Baltic Dirty Tanker index gained as much as 78percent from the first week of July. While fleet capacity stagnated due to low orders and scrappage, demand grew steadily driving up the charter rates. So much so that tanker rates on some routes tripled.

With a large portion of the fleet catering to crude and allied products, GE Shipping is seen to benefit from this. “After nine years of downturn, the unfavourable economics of this sector is now self-correcting as sub-par profitability, liquidity crunch, and rising regulatory cost have shrunk order books to a decadal low of 13percent and increased scrapping to 8-year high. This bodes well for GE Shipping as crude and allied product tankers account for 76percent of its DWT capacity,” Ambit Capital research said in a note. DWT stands for deadweight tonnage, a measure of the weight a ship can carry.

Cargo traffic handled by India’s major ports up 3.11pc

Major ports of the country together handled 578.86 Million Tonnes (MT) of cargo during April-January 2019, representing a growth of 3.11 percent, an official statement said on Tuesday.

The major ports had handled 561.39 MT cargo in the corresponding period of previous fiscal, the Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.

“The major ports in India have recorded a growth of 3.11 percent and together handled 578.86 MT of cargo during the period April to January, 2019 as against 561.39 MT handled during the corresponding period of previous year,” it said.

For the period from April 2018 to January 2019, nine ports Kolkata (including Haldia), Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Kamarajar, Chennai, Cochin, New Mangalore, JNPT and Deendayal have registered positive growth in traffic, it added.

Russia’s ESPO blend crude oil exports up 10pc

Russia’s exports of the medium sweet ESPO Blend crude oil are expected to total 2.64 million mt in March, up 10 percent from February, according to the latest monthly loading program.

ESPO Blend’s March program runs from February 27 to April 1 and will comprise of 26 cargoes — 25 are 100,000-mt in size and one is 140,000 mt in size. The March-loading rate will average 573,812 b/d, down from 591,300 b/d scheduled for February, using a conversion factor of 7.39.

State-owned Rosneft holds nine cargoes for March, up from eight, as seen in the February-loading program. Rosneft had issued a tender for a 100,000 mt cargo of ESPO crude for loading over March 11-16, the award details of which could not be confirmed. Russia’s Surgutneftegaz holds seven cargoes for March loading, similar to the February loading program.


Sluggish Russian wheat sales see regional freight rates slide

Freight rates in the Black and Azov Sea regions are sliding amid high prices in Russia, sources quoted as saying said.

Coaster freight between Azov and Marmara is anchored at a six-month low, now fixable at $18/mt, according to sources, as Turkey looks away from Russia and to other origins to protect its margins.

Deep water vessels are also experiencing pressure. Odessa to Alexandria freight rates are $6 lower on the month at $8/mt, as assessed by S&P Global Platts Monday, as a number of vessels fight over little cargoes to load around the Black Sea.

For example, Russia has not sold any cargoes to Egypt for 10 days, one source said, highlighting price as the issue.

Worsening LA-LB port congestion delays recovery until March

Congestion at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex is worsening, having bled into intermodal rail operations and drayage to regional warehouses, pushing back expectations for relief to no sooner than March.

“We still remain in peak situation. We are expecting relief around the third week of February,” Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles quoted as saying last week. December was a big month for the ports, with imports increasing 21.6 percent in Los Angeles and 7.9 per cent in Long Beach, according to port statistics.

Rather than dissipating with the onset of the Lunar New Year as anticipated, port sources are now projecting congestion will remain for about two more weeks. Truckers, who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure appointments at the marine terminals and deliver inbound containers to severely impacted import distribution centers, are suffering collateral damage because of mounting storage charges.

S Korean shipbuilders protest planned price hikes in thick plates

Shipbuilders are protesting a move by steelmakers to increase their prices of thick steel plates, claiming the hike will worsen their profitability at a time when they are still struggling with sluggish global demand, according to company officials report last week.

The two groups have engaged in an intense tug-of-war on the steel price hike since December, but have yet to reach an agreement. The nation’s leading steel companies, POSCO, Hyundai Steel and Dongkuk Steel, have been moving to increase the price of shipbuilding plates by about 50,000 won ($45) per ton in the first half of the year.

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