Shipping executives are more optimistic about the outlook for the industry than they have been in a year, according to the latest quarterly Ship Confidence Survey
from the accountant and shipping consultant Moore Stephens.
It said confidence had risen for the fourth successive quarter in a survey completed last month, "leading to an increased expectation of new investment on the part of respondents, despite an anticipated increase in the cost of finance over the next 12 months."
In May 2012, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.7 on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), compared to the figure 5.5 recorded in the previous survey in February 2012, and to the 5.6 recorded one year previously, in May 2011. The survey was launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.
The biggest increase in confidence was recorded by ship managers, up from 5.2 to 6 this time, the highest figure for this category of respondent since February 2011. Confidence among owners and charterers remained unchanged this time, at 5.6 and 5 respectively. Brokers (down from 5.6 to 5.2) were alone among all respondents in being less confident about the market than they were in February 2012. Confidence was up in Europe for the fourth successive quarter, from 5.3 to 5.6, stable in Asia at 5.7, and down in North America from 5.6 to 5.5.
A number of respondents quoted by the firm were upbeat about prospects for the market, despite admitting that any recovery would have to start from a comparatively low base. “If we are still alive now, after all the vessels that have entered the market and all the banks that have pulled out, there is a good chance that better times await us,” said one respondent.
Some respondents suggested that a recovery in the markets was achievable in the short term, typified by the comment from the respondent who noted, “The volume of business activity is expected to increase in the next quarter.” Most, however, were taking the longer view. “We will see the imbalance between tonnage supply and demand corrected in early 2014,” a respondent said. “Until then, we hope to see ship operators, cargo interests and charterers exercising good supply-chain values based on reasonable freight and time charter rates in order to get the industry through these tough times”.
Despite the recent fall in global oil prices, and consequently in the price of bunkers, fuel costs continued to occupy the thoughts of respondents. “The ultimate squeeze nowadays really comes from the cost of bunkers,” a respondent said. “On top of the high price of oil, refineries are producing less and less marine product, putting further pressure on bunker prices.”
In the containership market, 34 percent of respondents overall expected rates to go up, compared to 31 percent in the previous survey. The number of respondents anticipating higher rates over the coming year was up in all categories, in the case of charterers by 15 percentage points to 41 percent. For owners, the increase was from 28 percent to 35 percent, and for managers from 30 percent to 31 percent. - Chris Dupin