Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vessel Sales Continue As Dry Bulk Prices Steady

Chinese Coal and Currency has a Major Influence
Shipping News Feature

World Wide – In a difficult time for global shipping there will always be bargain hunters and sales of older vessels continue to turn over despite hard times. Last week saw the sale of the Neptune Discoverer, a deal which enabled the vessels owners, Neptune Marine, a subsidiary of Jasper Investments, to clear the outstanding $120 million bank loan owing on the ship and pocket some $30 million in change to bolster its reserves. There are also three reports of Capesize vessels changing hands in the past few days, allegedly to Chinese interests.

The Neptune Discoverer, a drilling ship built in Japan in 1977 went to Petro Saudi International along with the drilling contract the vessel is engaged in. Neptune will manage the changeover for three months. The other vessels to be sold apparently include the 13 year old Capesize bulk carrier MV Azul Glory, by Eurasia International (China), a Bernhard Schulte subsidiary, the reported price of which was just shy of $40 million.

Indications are that the market has been buoyed by the actions of Chinese authorities following the last serious mining accident at the Xinxing Coal, in Heilongjiang province in November killing 92 which in turn followed hot on the heels of the previous disaster in Shanxi which killed 77 just seven months before.

These horrific occurrences have traditionally been covered up by mine owners but now, with communications improving, the Government is seen to be acting to ensure better safety measures are in force. This in turn is reported to be costing the country around 5% of coal production and the shortfall, circa 30 – 40 million tonnes annually has to be made up by increased imports.

The downsides for Panamax and other carrier owners are the constant threat of restrictive fiscal policies by the Chinese government and fluctuating iron ore demand coupled with the bad weather recently which has slowed shipping activity across the globe and added to the already congested situation at many ports worldwide. In Australia over 170 Capesize vessels, around 20% of the world’s fleet of the largest bulk carriers, were held up awaiting loads off the Australian coast alone according to reports. Delays for such ships have been close to a month there and similar problems have been encountered when offloading in China, the principal cause being the atrocious weather.

The danger now is that as the situation returns to normal and ships are freed up for charter this will be reflected in the Baltic Dry Index as prices drop, at least in the short term. What is certain is that no huge price leaps are foreseen by industry analysts for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Neptune Discoverer