Ordinarily the news that annual operating costs have fallen for four straight years should be an occasion for shipowners to celebrate but the latest report from shipping consultant Moore Stephens also has a downside. The findings in OpCost 2016, Moore Stephens’ unique ship operating costs benchmarking tool show average annual operating costs fell 2.4% in 2015 – a much faster rate than the 0.8% recorded in 2014. The report reveals that on a year-on-year basis, the tanker index was down by 4 points, or 2.2%, while the bulker index fell by 6 points, or 3.6%. The container ship index, meanwhile, was also down by 6 points, or 3.7%. The corresponding figures in last year’s OpCost study showed falls of 2 points in both the tanker and container ship index, and of 1 point in the bulker index. There was a 1.2% overall average fall in 2015 crew costs, compared to the 2014 figure, which itself was 0.1% down on 2013. By way of comparison, the 2008 report revealed a 21% increase in this category. Tankers overall experienced a fall in crew costs of 1.3% on average, compared to the 0.4% fall recorded in 2014. All categories of tankers reported a reduction in crew costs for 2015 with the exception of Panamaxes and VLCCs, which recorded increases of 1.4% and 1.2% respectively, compared to reductions for 2014 of 2.2% and 0.6%. The most significant reduction in tanker crew costs for 2015 was the 3.6% recorded by Product Tankers. It would seem that crew costs fell slightly across all ship types averaging a 1.1% reduction although some sub-categories did show increases and for container ships there was a larger 3.3% drop. Falling lube prices had an impact on stores costs but there were much bigger drops in repairs and maintenance. Richard Greiner, Moore Stephens Partner, Shipping & Transport, says: “This is the fourth successive year-on-year reduction in overall ship operating costs. The reduction is three times that recorded 12 months ago, and a reduction at this level had not been widely anticipated. The fall in operating costs is likely to be due in part to continuing good husbandry in a difficult operating environment for many, and partly to an extremely difficult market and wider economic climate. There are other possibilities including a large number of laid up vessels with minimal crew numbers on board and perhaps an unwillingness to spend on repairs and maintenance for older vessels given that major capital outlays for ballast treatment systems were likely to be imminent and owners were contemplating scrapping ships rather than continue operating at a loss.