Dry cargo demand expected to increase, favoring higher freight rates
Increased dry bulk cargo demand is expected to become the norm in the coming weeks and months, according to analysts, which in turn should sustain firmer freight rates for bulk carriers. This could also explain not only the positive stance that ship owners have been exhibiting lately, but also their urge to acquire more dry bulk carriers from the second hand market, with a record of 157 ships traded during March, according to brokers" reports. Still, those factors haven't yet been translated through the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), which is moving rather lethargically during the past couple of weeks. Yesterday"s session saw the index at 3,009 up by 11, with the Capesize market rebounding, while the Panamax segment was retreating.
According to an analysis by Commodore Research & Consultancy, Chinese iron ore imports continue to remain firm this year and are up significantly from 2008 levels. In the first three months of this year, China has imported an average of 51.67 million tons of ore, 14.67mt (40%) more than 2008's monthly of average of 37mt. Iron ore imports reached a monthly average of 52.36mt in 2009, however, putting this year's iron ore imports at 0.69mt (-1%) less than 2009 levels.
At the same time, Chinese thermal coal demand also remains very firm, as the severe drought in southwest China continues to significantly restrict hydropower production. ?A continued decline in Chinese steel stockpiles remains very encouraging. Chinese steel production, and now apparent consumption, appears quite firm. The very sharp decline in Chinese coal stockpiles is also encouraging. Thermal coal demand in China is likely to remain robust during the next few months, as Chinese hydropower output stays low and the Northern Hemisphere peak summer demand season approaches. Spot prices for dry bulk commodity prices remain firm and global port congestion is still very high? the report said.
Meanwhile, another important market expected to kick in by June, is the expected increase of Canadian iron ore exports. Wuhan Iron Ore and Steel Company (WICSO), one of China's major steel mills, recently announced that it would head the call to boycott Australian and Brazilian ore. As an alternative the company is favoring a steady supply of the raw material from Canada's Consolidated Thompson, beginning June. The iron ore will come from Consolidated Thompson's Bloom Lake Iron Ore Deposit, a 640 million ton ore deposit of primarily low quality iron ore. Bloom Lake currently produces around 7mt of high quality ore (with up to a 66.5% iron content) each year, however, and this is the type of ore that WISCO will be importing. WISCO's Consolidated Thompson ore imports will be shipped from the eastern Canadian ports of Sept-Isles, Pointe Noire, and Port Cartier.
Commodore says that ?this development will support freight rates (once shipments begin in June) due to the increase in ton miles associated with shipping ore from eastern Canada to China, compared with shipping ore from Australia or India to China. WISCO will still find it difficult to boycott Australian and Brazilian ore in the short-term, however, as Consolidated Thompson shipments will not begin until June. Once these ore shipments begin, we still expect WISCO (and any other importers of Consolidated Thompson ore) to continue to import a large amount of iron ore from traditional exporters (Australia, Brazil, and India)? concluded the report.
Commenting on the recent trend of the capesize segment, Fearnley's latest weekly report said that finally there was more optimism in the market last week, with improving rates being fixed and more activity. ?This week started off relatively quiet, with Rio Tinto fixing vessels well below $10 for Australia round voyage and Vale picking older ships at around $23 pmt for Tubarao/Qingdao. Later this week, however, BHP was more aggressively pushing the marked up by fixing four vessels in relatively short time for Australia/PRC at 10.25-10.50 range, i.e. breaking the important ten mark. The market in general was surprised to see the charters paying up like this, and the most plausible explanation is that there is more to go? concludes Fearnley's.