This week the UK government announced a proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars with effect from 2040, joining a similar initiative from France made earlier this year. The week has also witnessed Shell executives talking of ‘low oil prices forever’ and an anticipated peak demand for oil coming much sooner than expected. Yet over the same period there was an announcement by Vesselsvalues.com that although the total number of cargo and offshore vessels ordered has more than halved during the first half of 2017 compare to 2015, ordering of new tankers has increased compared to 2016 and at 145 vessels is not far short of the 181 from 2015. There may seem to be some conflict between the clear move to reduced demand and the buoyant confidence of owners ordering new vessels. But therein lies the problem that shipowners have constantly to face. A possible ban on new fossil-fuelled cars in 2040 or even earlier can just as easily be reversed but new ships are not built in days and shipowners need to be ready to meet any and all eventualities. Lack of demand for road vehicle fuel does not of course mean the end of demand for oil – it is used to produce many more things beside and is perhaps more valuable for those purposes than as a fuel. However, the move away from fossil fuels will mean less ships are needed and in turn that means less work for shipbuilders and for the specialist equipment suppliers. Times, it seems, are changing and yet despite the advancements in technology and changes in trade that have been made in the past it is quite clear that shipping is nowhere near an industry that is as yet endangered even if individual ship types may be.
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