WITH most of the developing world in an economic slowdown, business information provider IHS is forecasting prolonged weakness in commodity prices over the next decade with prices for coal, iron ore and crude oil all likely to remain depressed for the next few years.
For most shippers, the five to 10 years of slow growth ahead translates into depressed rates for shipping, particularly dry bulk shipping. Accentuating the price weakness is that most fleets - with the exception of Panamax fleet coal and grain cargo vessels - are fairly young, leaving little room to reduce capacity.
One exception to this trend is tanker shipping, which is expected to stay strong in the short term. Although lower oil prices will spur more consumption, IHS expects overall global oil demand growth will average just 0.6 per cent per year through 2040.
"The possibility of low commodity prices for a prolonged period of time will mean readjusting current and near future fleet capacities, particularly in the dry bulk sector that experienced large growth of the fleets in last 10 years."
This is one of the five trends identified in a new report from IHS, called IHS Global Maritime Trends 2016, put together by a team of experts at IHS Maritime & Trade that will shape the global maritime industry for the coming decade.
"After years of heavy investment in commodity extraction, the majority of commodity producers are concentrating their efforts on keeping their market share, which in turn influences oversupply situation," said principal analyst at IHS Maritime & Trade, Dalibor Gogic.
The second trend is that with the excesses in industrial capacity, housing inventory and debt are expected to further dampen China's domestic demand in 2016. Slow and unstable global economic growth means that China will not be able to exports its way to recovery.
From 7.3 per cent in 2014, IHS forecasts that China's GDP will sink to 6.3 percent in 2016, before a modest rebound in 2017.
Government-controlled steelmakers in China are exacerbating the disconnect in the shipping industry between the expectations of owners and charterers for three- to five-year spot rates.
Newbuilding prices suggest that freight rates will drop further. While the larger Asian shipyards appear stable, smaller shipyards may be vulnerable, particularly those that specialise in the dry bulk and offshore vessel markets.
One bright spot for Chinese shipping is the container trade, where volume on routes to the western US is expected to rise 8 per cent in 2016 and on the European routes by 6 per cent.
"The slowdown in Chinese demand means most businesses will simply readjust to new economic realities. However, the situation for dry bulk shipping is much worse," Mr Gogic said. "The number of new ships and increased capacity expected to be hitting the waves in next couple of years is huge.
The third trend is that IHS expects certain EU and US sanctions against Iran will start to be lifted early next year after IAEA verification that Iran has met its JCPOA commitments. The lifting of some sanctions is expected to add about half a million barrels of oil a day to the global supply by the end of 2016.
Iran's re-entry into the oil export market won't help tanker operators directly because most of the oil will likely be shipped in National Iranian Tanker Company's carriers sidelined in the Persian Gulf while sanctions were imposed.
The fourth trend identified is that shippers will soon benefit from better forecasts with the increased availability of shipping data and advances in big data analytics, providing shippers with greater visibility into market and pricing trends.
IHS believes 2016 will see an increased development and adoption of big data analytics by the industry to mitigate risks and transform challenges into opportunities.
The fifth and final trend is that shifts in global demographics and population growth rates, coupled with long-term economic growth in developing markets, will have implications for the maritime sector over the course of the next decade.
The middle class is growing in the emerging economies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America where disposable incomes will drive growth in demand for imports of commodities and finished goods.
One consequence for the maritime sector of a rise in consumer spending in developing markets will be long-term growth opportunities for container ships.
More and larger container ships will require investment in ports, infrastructure, technology, and services to ensure that the flow of business remains efficient.
Shipping's employment problem is that it is seen as low-tech compared with industries such as the aviation, automotive and technology. To attract the next generation of maritime professionals, shipyards must become more technologically advanced and innovative, and seafaring must learn new skills and integrate new technology.
Source : HKSG.