Drewry Maritime Research said some ship operating costs retreated in 2012, falling by up to 7 percent from 2011 levels, a year when operating costs rose 2 percent to 5 percent depending on vessel sector.
Commodity prices have started to fall, particularly in maintenance, and Drewry said 2013 should see further falls.
But, in its just-released Ship Operating Costs Annual Review and Forecast 2012/13
, Drewry said cost increases are on the horizon.
Paula Puszet, managing editor for Drewry, said "there is some temporary overhead relief for operators but they need to resist the temptation to push profits by cutting corners, as this is likely bite back later. Oil prices are unpredictable and steel, still volatile. Zinc, copper and chemicals - all used in repairs and maintenance - are set to rise again. Paints and hull treatments, as well as machinery parts, are likely to go the same way. “
She said tighter regulations and new international maritime conventions on safety, manning and the environment "will continue to exert pressure on budgets post 2013.”
Drewry highlighted these findings:
- Lack of growth kept wage levels in check, ensuring manning costs will be stabilized ext year. The gap between demand and supply of officers narrowed in 2011 to 16,000 because of market uncertainty and declining vessel supply.
- Hull and machinery insurance premiums remained static. Owners, anticipating worse trading conditions, resisted premium hikes. The protection and indemnity insurance sector found itself with high levels of free reserves. With the claims picture looking hopeful, investment income increased. Consequently, average general increases were modest in comparison with the volatility of earlier years.
- Strong commodity prices, particularly in metals, adversely affected repair and maintenance budgets in 2011. Rising oil prices meant more expensive paints and coatings. But falling prices this year (even though steel is still volatile), coupled with increases in yard capacity, has given operators some breathing space.
- Fears that lubricant prices would become disconnected from oil prices was, once again, unfounded. But Drewry advises owners and managers still need forward contracts in lubes in case of future price hikes.
- Management and administration costs "will require particular scrutiny as regulatory issues will force costs up." SOLAS Chapter V stipulates that the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems and Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm Systems must be fitted to all new vessels immediately. In time, they will be compulsory for all ships. The Energy Efficiency Design Index enters into force in 2013. Higher costs have led to some owners relocating their fleet management operations.