CMA 2010: Fake ship orders used to secure bank loans
Undisclosed Asian shipyards used ?fake? newbuilding orders to secure bank loans before the shipping market crash.
Georgi Slavov, ICAP Shipping head of dry freight and basic resources research, declined to name the yards, but highlighted the practice of forging memorandums of understanding to explain why so little accurate information was known about the true state of the newbuilding orderbook.
He joined a five-member panel at the Connecticut Maritime Association Shipping 2010 conference, that sought unsuccessfully to shine some clarity on levels of cancellation and delays, as shipowners struggle to accurately forecast fleet growth.
Slippage has emerged as a major issue for yards and owners, with unfunded vessels and orders placed at inexperienced yards key reasons for delays, delegates heard.
Mr Slavov said between 55%-65% of ships ordered had yet to arrive and this massive slippage level was supporting the bulk carrier freight rates at current higher levels. Some 14% of bulk carrier orders had been cancelled, he estimated.
?We do not foresee any substantial relief of the backlog because many of the reasons for it are still in place,? he said.
The true number of orders placed at shipyards cannot be qualified as owners were very secretive in what they do, said Bureau Veritas marine division managing director Bernard Anne.
?No one knows the real picture,? he said. ?Even class does not know everything as there are no precise statistics.?
Orders could be modified, there were no records of when contracts were not entered into force, or whether options were not declared, he said.
Slippage rates have been higher amongst bulk carriers and boxships, first affected by the global trade slowdown, but have also been experienced recently at greater levels in the tanker sector.
Further shipbuilding delays were forecast at China"s Jiangsu Rongsheng Heavy Industry shipyard, adding to uncertainty about delivery numbers for suezmax tankers in 2010.
Last year, 14 of the 26 suezmax tankers ordered were not delivered as scheduled, with delays averaging 8-9 months at the yard, according to Jerry Lichtblau, research director at US-based broker MJLF. Eight suezmax tankers have since been delivered in the first quarter of 2010. Further tankers had also been cancelled but not announced, he said.
Mr Lichtblau also cast doubt over the viability of South Korea"s SLS shipyard, where 45 medium-range tankers remained on the orderbook. The yard filed for bankruptcy protection in December and has seen tanker orders cancelled by owners after delays exceeded the contractually allowed period.
Mr Lichtblau said only six further tankers were expected to be delivered from this yard, while anecdotal reports suggested only half of the MR tankers ordered at South Korean yards would be delivered.
South Korean yards were building 61% of the estimated 328 MR tankers on order.
Orders for some 7,600 ships have been placed in the world"s shipyards, according to Clarkson Research Services, including record numbers from 2006-2008, at the height of the shipping cycle.