TOO many new ships, too few old ones scrapped. Since the financial crisis, after which trade growth slowed, the Baltic Dry Index—a measure of bulk freight rates—has fallen by 93%. Prices for transporting containers have plunged by the same amount on some routes. In 2008 it cost $2,000 to send a 20-foot box from China to Brazil; now it costs $50. The industry is drowning in red ink. Hanjin Shipping of South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest line, went bust last August, and even Maersk Line, which has the lowest costs in the industry, lost $367m in 2016.
But there was some optimism this week at European Shipping Week in Brussels, an industry event. Bosses at bigger lines reckon the worst is over. Higher levels of scrapping will cut overcapacity, argues Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, a German line. The industry may break even this year, predicts Rahul Kapoor of Drewry, a consultancy.
But many shipowners are still too reluctant to send their hulks to the scrapheap. The problem can be clearly seen in the container-shipping business. Last year firms scrapped 194 ships, accounting for 3% of…Continue reading