The bulker blues in 2015 By Syd Heal
To say the least, 2015 was nothing short of horrible for virtually the entire world fleet of dry bulk carriers with probably just a very small minority of ships that were still covered by long-term charters being able to earn enough money to cover their depreciation and expenses and still show a profit. For many owners, the recession of 2008 has been continuous up to the present time with little relief visible coming over the horizon. These have resulted in the inevitable bankruptcies and others will follow. Relief would include increased world demand for basic bulk commodities which would help stiffen freight rates, plus a more rapid rate of scrapping old vessels. There are still a few old veterans around built in the 1970s and 1980s although happily they are hardly a factor any more, particularly when under minor flags that do not compete in competitive world trade, but are usually owned to serve the domestic needs of their country of registration.
Among smaller owners there have undoubtedly been many retirements as those frustrated by low spot market rates seem to be caught in a never-ending morass. Small fleets tend to more readily age and deteriorate and cannot easily initiate a replacement plan. Average fleet age is always an important factor in marine insurance, bank financing, private capital and investment decisions and if a fleet cannot renew itself and keep average age down with new ships replacing old, it is clearly on its way out. Among the smaller owner classes, some are actually publicly quoted companies on the NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges and looking at their figures, some are in dire straits with little future as the big fleets of today grab all the opportunities. Because of exchange rules a number have moved into the over-the-counter market, but their future looks very uncertain short of a miracle.
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