Looking to 2017

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

24 November 2016


For most shipowners and operators the run in to the turn of the year is a time to prepare for new regulations that have seemed to come at an accelerating rate in recent years. Fortunately this time around looks to be relatively benign although the second half of 2017 is looking a little expensive for some. In recent months, two of the uncertainties that have bedevilled shipping have been lifted and although the Ballast Convention will now come into effect on 8th Sept 2017, there is still potential for some owners to put off a little while longer the cost of installing a treatment system if they can bring forward their IOPP survey date to before the coming into force date. For ships involved in operating only in restricted areas, now is the time for the owners to push national shipowners’ associations and other relevant bodies to establish regional exemption zones. As for the global cap on sulphur levels, now known to be due to become effective in 2020, owners can begin to weigh up their options and prepare a strategy for compliance. The overcapacity which has dogged the world fleet in many sectors for some time now still needs to be addressed. The cost of complying with the ballast and sulphur rules will likely see an increase in scrapping and laying up. Much of the overcapacity has come about because almost all economic forecasts over the last decade predicted constantly increasing trade and higher tonne/miles needed to meet demand. China’s slowdown has proved those forecasts to have been inaccurate and even though the country is now increasing imports of coal and iron ore again, the higher tonne miles needed has also proved wrong as Australia and Indonesia are meeting the demand. BIMCO said earlier this week the change in the coal trade patterns has seen the US and South Africa as the biggest losers. Both experiencing their export to China plummet since the third quarter of 2014. The lower tonne/miles that this has caused means that the bulk sector is gaining no benefit for China’s surging imports. There are however, some encouraging signs that after the shake out things will begin to get better. As reported in the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the week, some are looking forward to a change of strategy in the US with optimism. John Angelicoussis, owner of the Angelicoussis Shipping Group, said in an interview that Donald Trump's Presidency will have a positive impact on the shipping industry. As well as rolling back restrictions and constraints on US coal and oil and gas producers, Trump is supposedly planning a series of infrastructure projects that will be positive for the industry as a whole. Also likely to impact soon is the possibility of a US interest rate rise. This has nothing to do with Trump and has been on the cards for some time. If there is an increase before the end of this year, the likely effect will be to push down crude rates because oil is priced in dollars and that could easily offset any price rise caused by a curb on production by OPEC and Russia. Cheaper bunkers for longer is no bad thing for the shipping industry and although it does little for the offshore sector, that sector is likely to profit from future Trump policies.