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BULK - China key to dry bulk freight rates rebound

9839 fcras 3/5 2009 12:53

Written by Perter Clarkson Sunday, 03 May 2009 02:36

Shipowners and operators highlighted increased reliance on China for any sustained rebound in freight rates for the global fleet of bulk carriers, at first quarter earnings conference calls this week.

Navios Maritime Partners partly attributed "measured optimism" for 2009 bulk carrier prospects to steady levels of Chinese steel production and a surge in bank lending in that country.

"Chinese seaborne iron ore demand is more a function of the price difference between domestic and imported iron ore, other than steel production levels, said Navios Maritime executive vice-president, business development George Achniotis. "China is substituting more expensive and lower quality domestic iron ore with imported ore. Spot iron ore prices are well below domestic production break even levels."

As a result, iron ore imports hit records in February and March, pushing up demand for bulk carrier vessels on the major shipping route from Brazil to China.

Mr Achniotis said the Chinese used domestic iron ore for 60% of their steel production in June 2008. Today that figure comprised 38%.

The three largest producers, Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were also selling iron ore at a discount, further eroding the competitiveness of Chinese domestic iron ore. Up to half the local mines had closed as a result, conferences were told.

Genco Shipping and Trading chairman Peter Georgiopoulos said the difference in price between imported and local iron ore was now at $15-$20 per tonne.

Chinese steel production accounts for 35% of global steel demand and 50% of the global iron ore market.

Seanergy Maritime chief executive Dale Ploughman forecast Chinese GDP at 8%, which would benefit the iron ore trades.

"As the global economy improves and the export of finished product demand starts to improve, we could start to see record levels of iron ore imports into China," he said.

Mr Georgiopoulos said Chinese steel production had risen by 2.1% in 2009, compared to last year. New loans in March totalled $277bn, setting a new Chinese record.

The resurgence in business had boosted interest in chartering tonnage for longer-term periods up several years, he said. Despite high levels of inquiry, "we don't have much willingness to fix in the current rate environment."

While China was expected to underpin demand for dry bulk, the supply side of the equation also looked positive.

Owners highlighted that only 101 of the 242 new bulk carriers due for delivery in the first quarter of 2009 had arrived.

Also offsetting fleet numbers, Navios said bulk carriers totalling 10.1m dwt had been sold for scrap in the last six months, more than in the last five years. Eighteen bulk carriers were sold for scrap in April.

3/5 2009 13:34 fcras 09841

BULK - Pacific gloom and grain fears hit supramax spot rates

Written by Perter Clarkson Sunday, 03 May 2009 02:22

Rates on the spot market have eased for supramax vessels this week, reflecting poorer sentiment for those trading in the Pacific region, and mixed messages over grain shipping prospects in South America.

"We're a bit lost," said a European-based broker.

Ships had been fixed for journeys in the Atlantic but then fallen through, reflecting rising instability, he said.

However, rates remained firm in the Baltic region, the broker said, thanks to business transporting fertiliser cargoes to India. Rates for ships taking a trip from the US Gulf were also firm, as was business for ships of this type in the Mediterranean region.

There had been a sharp fall in rates in the Pacific, with limited new cargoes available, which was adding to pressure.

Rates there were much lower than those secured for ships trading in the Atlantic. The imbalance meant that many vessels will not accept work that will take them into the region, brokers said.

"The fact the Far East is weak will not help," one said. "Still a lot of ships want to trade in the Atlantic and are ready to give a discount to remain there or go there."

Rates for fronthaul journeys via the east coast of South America were in the high $20,000s per day, brokers said yesterday.

There was limited interest in the period market, for longer-term charters. One deal at $18,000 per day for 46 months was arranged but fell through, a broker reported.

Norwegian broker Fearnleys said supramax vessels for a backhaul journey were around $8,000 per day, while short voyages in Asia fetched $13,000-$15,000 per day depending on delivery.

ICAP Shipping said on Wednesday that a supramax fixed for a fronthaul trip to Asia could receive about $30,000 per day.

But the southern Atlantic was "unquestionably coming apart at the seams", the ICAP Shipping report said. "Most charterers have taken their foot completely off their collective pedals, those that are rating are down at around $20,000 per day, basis delivery passing South Africa. Ships can be picked up from India at between $12,000-$13,000 daily dependant on spec and position."

The Baltic Exchange's average time charter rate for a supramax was at nearly $15,000 per day, steady on levels seen for the last week.

Forward freight agreement contract values reflected poorer sentiment into 2009. May supramax contracts were yesterday valued at $13,375 per day, compared with $14,600 per day a week ago, according to Freight Investor Services, a freight derivatives trader. FIS said third quarter supramax contracts were valued at $13,125 per day. Contracts for 2010 were also much lower in value, at $11,250 per day.

Oldendorff yesterday chartered the 53,094 dwt, 2002-built Alitis with delivery at Magdalla for a spot trip via South Africa, with redelivery at India, for around $13,000 per day.