There are “solid signs” of restrained fleet expansion, matching world seaborne trade growth more closely, although not in all sectors.

This was the message delivered by Richard Scott MA MCIT FICS, managing director of Bulk Shipping Analysis, at a meeting in London of WISTA UK (Women International Shipping and Trading Association). “Trade continues to grow and may even be accelerating from the historical growth levels of the last two years of 2-3%,” he told the audience.

This compares with annual growth of just over 5% before the 2008 shipping market crash. Annual world trade carried by merchant ships in 2016 has been estimated at 11.1 billion tonnes, he continued. This is equivalent to 1.5 tonnes for every person on the planet.

Deadweight capacity of the world fleet is greatest in the dry bulk sector which makes up 43% of the fleet, with oil tankers at 31%, containerships 13% and liquid gas (LNG and LPG) carriers at 3%. The remaining tonnage is made up of other vessels such as ro-ros and reefers.

China continues to dominate trade growth, Mr Scott explained, its contribution having risen from 5% of total world seaborne imports in 2000 to 20% in 2016. “A large part of world seaborne trade growth consists of additional Chinese imports,” he said.

The trend for oil tanker charter rates continues down but he predicted some recovery soon, signs of which are already emerging, for the dry bulk and container sectors.

However, any growth in world trade in 2017 was still proving insufficient to absorb world fleet overcapacity. “Shipping investors tend to be over optimistic,” Mr Scott observed. “There are imbalances in many trades – especially in the bulk sector.”


Picture caption: Picture shows left to right Rachel Lawton of Mazars, WISTA UK Treasurer; Thomas Andersson of hosts Stena UK, Bridget Hogan of the Nautical Institute, WISTA UK Secretary and Torild Stokes and Katarina Bateson from Stena UK.