Dry Bulk Ships: To Buy or Not To Buy

The dry bulk market had a great run from the fall of the last year until March this year when the BDI reached 1,338 points on March 29th.  While freight rates still have been hovering at just above break-even levels, the improvement of the market has been impressive in relative terms; freight rates have quadrupled in the last year, admittedly from abysmally low levels.

While still the freight improvement has not been strong enough to justify popping champagne bottles, it has worked miracles in terms of improving the mood and bringing soaring enthusiasm back in a market that was relentlessly bleeding cash for the last few years. The enthusiasm has been so strong that recent sale & purchase activity (s&p) has been the strongest in the last two years, while there are a couple of cases of shipowners doubling their money on ‘asset play’ transactions within the last year.

The market has given up some of its recent earnings as the BDI is now back to approximately 900 points, but the improved mood is still abundantly present. And, given that we are heading into the summer, a seasonally weak season for shipping, there have been some concerns on the direction of the market. And, now that the market seems to be taking a breather and there is some time for introspection, there is some head-scratching on the real reasons for the market bouncing back so strongly in the last year as fundamentals did not seem to justify such a strong (fourfold) freight improvement.  All in all, while the market is still decent and the mood is buoyant, one has to be more cautious at present.

Shipping asset prices have improved since last year when ships, especially when non-modern dry bulk ships were selling at a multiple of their scrap value, irrespective of quality and pedigree. Probably the “easy money” has been behind for those looking for an easy “asset play”, but shipping asset prices are still low by historical standards.  And, there has been serious interest for acquisitions of dry bulk shipping assets whether in the secondary or the newbuilding market.

But again, it’s hard for a buyer or investor to enter aggressively the market. Prices have doubled for a great deal of assets while the freight market barely covers their daily operating expenses. And, there are risks looking forward to justify an aggressive approach. Trade volumes are still anemic to imply a strong market recovery. And, shipbuilders are getting more desperate by the day at building up their orderbook. Lack of competitive shipping finance keeps a dumper on the market, but any export credit incentive or other catalyst would have a tremendous (even catastrophic) impact on the market.

While asset prices look tempting by historical standards, whether for tankers or dry bulk vessels, it’s hard making the argument that the market is in a full recovery swing and buying ships, whether for operating profits or for asset flipping in the future, can b a great strategy. The risks still lurking in the market cannot be ignored. And, in our opinion, the “irrational exuberance” we have seen earlier in the year make us believe that there is still lots of froth in the market.


The article was first published in Seatrade Maritime on June 6th, 2017 under the title “Dry Bulk Ships: To Buy or not to Buy“.


Great looking dry bulk vessel MV ‘Genco Pyrenees’ not making making (sailing in ballast). Recently photographed sailing upstream in Elbe in Hamburg. Image credit: Karatzas Images

© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

‘Shipshape 10’ News for Week Ending May 28th, 2017

‘Shipshape 10 List’, a list of news and articles published in the current week that a senior executive in shipping, shipping finance, commodities, energy, supply chain and infrastructure should had noticed; news and articles that are shaping the agenda and the course of the maritime industry.

Sometimes seemingly tangential, periodically humorous, occasionally sarcastic, sporadically artistic, inferentially erotic, but always insightful and topical.

And, this week’s ‘Shipshape 10’:

While lots of shipping hope has been laid at the feet of a Chinese recovery, China’s sovereign debt has been downgraded mostly on concerns of slowing growth:
1. China’s sovereign debt downgraded by Moody’s (Financial Times)

2. China Moves to Stabilize Currency, Despite Promise to Loosen Control (The New York Times)

A seemingly major investor for shipping, but not clear whether there are string attached; in any event, the funding gap in shipping could suck up Dubai’s billion fund in seconds:
2. Dubai looking into forming $1 billion shipping investment fund (Reuters)

Shipping is a commodity b2b business. Od, isn’t it?
Quoting Basil M Karatzas, at Splash 24/7
3. Has Shipping Become Commoditised? (Splash 24/4)

In a weak overall market, mergers in the commodities trading world, and other news:
4a. Sowing Glencore’s Waves of Grain (Bloomberg)

4b. Huntsman and Clariant unveil $20bn tie-up (Financial Times)

4c. Noble Group, a big Asian commodities trader, is teetering

4d. War on Sugar Turns Years of Growth Into Market Tipping Point (Bloomberg)

OPEC had once promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to drive oil prices higher. This week’s developments from Vienna show that OPEC may not be in charge of the oil markets as it used to be:                                                                                         5a. OPEC Should Watch Glencore’s Bunge Jump (Bloomberg)

5b. OPEC’s Weakest Link Is Not Who You Think It Is (Bloomberg)

5c. Opec: more of the same (Petroleum Economist)

5d. BP and Glencore warned over bullish fossil fuel forecasts (Financial Times)

5e. Oil market awaits ‘whatever it takes’ details as Opec gathers (Financial Times)

And the reason for OPEC’s dwindling chances controlling the oil markets:
6. New era beckons as Euronav VLCC is first to load US oil (Lloyd’s List)

Soft tanker asset prices have been conducive for M&A activity, with Scorpio Tankers acquiring the Navig8 Products Tankers fleet, creating the biggest player in the sector:                                                                                                                     7a. Scorpio Tankers fleet worth $3 bn after Navig8 Product Tankers takeover (Seatrade Maritime)

7b. Scorpio Announces Merger With Navig8 Product Tankers (The Maritime Executive)

While the world of ‘commodity shipping’ is struggling to recover, the cruiseship market has been strong, and China’s prospects in the sector cannot be ignored: 8a. China Tops Two Million Cruise Passengers (The Maritime Executive)

8b. Princess Tells “Chinese Story” Along Silk Road Route (The Maritime Executive)

8c. Greece To Bolster Cruise Capabilities (The Maritime Executive)

The current issue of the Economist is running a series of articles the oceans:
9a. How to improve the health of the ocean (The Economist)

9b. Getting serious about overfishing (The Economist)

9c. Megaprojects threaten Hong Kong’s iconic dolphins (The Economist)

“I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore.” Genesis 22:15-18, and “like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted” Genesis 32:12. Apparently, sand is not as plentiful these days:

10a. The World is Running Out of Sand (The New Yorker)

10b. An improbable global shortage: sand (The Economist)

Majestic sunset: Piraeus. Image credit: Karatzas Images

© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

‘Shipshape 10’ News for Week Ending April 30th, 2017

‘Shipshape 10 List’, a list of news and articles published in the current week that a senior executive in shipping, shipping finance, commodities, energy, supply chain and infrastructure should had noticed; news and articles that are shaping the agenda and the course of the maritime industry.

Sometimes seemingly tangential, periodically humorous, occasionally sarcastic, sporadically artistic, inferentially erotic, but always insightful and topical.

And, this week’s ‘Shipshape 10’:

On trade and tariffs:
1a. Why Trump is starting a trade war with Canada (Politico)

1b. Why Donald Trump Decided to Back Off Nafta Threat (The Wall Street Journal)

On the Jones Act market and the current debate:
2a. Reinterpreting the Jones Act a Done Deal? Not So Fast (gCaptain)

2b. U.S. Maritime Industry Stands Behind Jones Act Ruling Letter Changes (gCaptain)

2c. Oil Trade Association API Says New Jones Act Rulings Could Cost American Jobs (gCaptain)

2d. OMSA Fires Back at ‘Erroneous’ and ‘Misguided’ Report on Jones Act Changes (gCaptain)

2e. AMP Supports Stricter Jones Act Interpretations (Maritime Executive)

Speaking of company valuations in a shifting sand of a world:
3. For Aramco Insiders, Prince’s $2 Trillion IPO Valuation Doesn’t Add Up (The Wall Street Journal)

Apparently there is such a thing as ’too much of exports’:
4. Australia curbs LNG exports amid domestic gas shortage (Financial Times)

While mining and oil majors seem to be benefiting from the current turn of commodity pricing:
5a. Big mining groups rebound to extract a profit (Financial Times)

5b. Exxon, Chevron Earnings Point to Sign of Strengthening Oil Industry (The Wall Street Journal)

John Fredriksen and Frontline on an all-out war to buy DHT, five offers and two lawsuits in less than two months:
6. Frontline Tries for DHT Takeover Again (The Maritime Executive)

While Angeliki Frangou’s Navios goes for the kill:
7. Navios moves for controlling stake in the FSL Trust (Splash 24/7)

George Economou of Dryships and Ocean Rig needs no introduction:
8. How a CEO Made Millions From a Sinking Ship (The Wall Street Journal)

Building on ports is always a good strategy especially when there are motivated sellers:
9. German-Led Consortium Named Preferred Bidder for Greek Port (The Wall Street Journal)

On an artistic expedition, a visit to the British Museum by August 13th, 2017 is a must to see ‘Under the Wave, off Kanagawa’ (Japanese: Kanagawa oki nami-ura), popularly known as ‘The Great Wave’, by the most famous of all Japanese prints, by artist Katsushika Hokusai:
10. Making waves (The British Museum blog)

And, it seems finally science is catching up with one the mot terrifying cause of shipwrecks over maritime history, the legendary shipworm:
The Loch Ness Monster of Mollusks (The New Yorker)

And, for those with travel flexibility, please join us next week at George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, for the 2nd Cayman Maritime Week; Basil Karatzas will present at the 5th Mare Forum Cayman Shipping and Yachting Summit on the implications of the Trump Administration to the shipping industry.

Products Tanker ‘Maersk Mississippi’ discharging cargo at the Grand Cayman. Image source: Karatzas Images

© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

‘Shipshape 10’ News for Week Ending April 15th, 2017

‘Shipshape 10 List’, a list of news and articles published in the current week that a senior executive in shipping, shipping finance, commodities, energy, supply chain and infrastructure should had noticed; news and articles that are shaping the agenda and the course of the maritime industry.

Sometimes seemingly tangential, periodically humorous, occasionally sarcastic, sporadically artistic, inferentially erotic, but always insightful and topical.

And, this week’s ‘Shipshape 10’:

On trade:
1. Whatever Happened to Free Trade? (The Wall Street Journal)

While more and bigger containerships still getting delivered:
2a. Biggest Ship to Ever Call On U.S. East Coast Arriving in May (gCaptain)

2b. Madrid Maersk Snatches Record from MOL Triumph (The Maritime Executive)

Chinese financing always on focus:
3a. A Sunny Spell – A new Mood of Optimism Infects Investors in China’s Banks (The Economist)

3b. Chinese Finance is Storing up Trouble for the rest of the World (Financial Times)

Ongoing concerns on the apparent sinking of MV ’Stellar Daisy’; Lloyd’s List article quoting Basil Karatzas:
4a. Stellar Daisy Casualty Sparks Karatzas Warning on Conversions (Lloyd’s List)

4b. Intercargo Calls for Quick and Thorough Investigation into MV ‘Stellar Daisy’ Sinking (Seatrade)

4c. “Rolling like I’m inside Washing Machine”: Terrifying Account Sinking MV ‘Stellar Daisy’

Korean shipbuilder DSME seemingly in an existential unbearable lightness of being, being getting into receivership and obtaining more newbuilding orders; Wall Street Journal article quoting Basil Karatzas:
5a. Korean Shipbuilder’s Survival Hinges on Creditors’ Losses (The Wall Street Journal)

5b. HMM in for up to 10 VLCCs at DSME (Splash 24/7)

Insightful articles on the German shipping market from Lloyd’s List:
6a. Rickmers Maritime Trust falls but Nemesis dances on (Lloyd’s List)

6b. German Owners on the Brink (Lloyd’s List)

While another German company with pedigree has fallen off the pier:
7a. Rickmers Maritime to be Wound-up After Last Ditch Restructuring Talks Fail (Seatrade)

7b. Charter Market Recovery Too Late to Save Rickmers Maritime (The Loadstar via gCaptain)

On commodities and iron ore:
8a. Iron ore Sinks as China Glut Unnerves Traders (The Financial Times)

8b. China’s Steel Pillars Corrode (Bloomberg)

LNG definitely is promisingly in the news with every day:
9a. LNG-Fueled Mega Container Ship Design Approved (The Maritime Executive)

9b. Gas Fleet Concept Receives Approval in Principle (The Maritime Executive)

9c. Jaxport’s LNG Bunkering Facility is Ready to Work (The Maritime Executive)

9d. New U.S. Pipelines to Drive Natural Gas Boom as LNG Exports Surge (Reuters)

With global warming and the navigating in the Arctic being critical:
10. Icebreakers – The quickest way to break the ice is by submarine (The Economist)

And, a few more sad thoughts on yet another shipping tragedy, the Jones Act ferry MV ‘El Faro’ that was lost last year during the hurricane Joaquin:

11a. ’I’M A GONER’: El Faro’s Last Hours as Ship Sails into Storm (Associated Press)

11b. El Faro’s Tragic Ending ‘Burned’ in Investigator’s Mind (Associated Press)

LNG was on the central topic at the 2017 Columbia Global Energy Summit. From left, Dr Tim Boersma (CGEP), Charif Souki (Tellurian), Dr Tatiana Mitrova (CGEP), Jeroen van der Veer (ex-CEO Shell), Fu Chengyu (former Chairman of CNOOC / Sinopec). Image credit: Karatzas Images.


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

‘Shipshape 10’ News for Week Ending March 26th, 2017

‘Shipshape 10 List’, a list of news and articles published in the current week that a senior executive in shipping, shipping finance, commodities, energy, supply chain and infrastructure should had noticed; news and articles that are shaping the agenda and the course of the maritime industry.

Sometimes seemingly tangential, periodically humorous, occasionally sarcastic, sporadically artistic, inferentially erotic, but always insightful and topical.

And, this week’s ‘Shipshape 10’:

Talking about destruction of value for the sellers…
1. Borr Drilling to buy Transocean’s jack-up rig fleet for $1.35bn (Seatrade Maritime)

and, the riskiness of the offshore drilling markets…
2. Shell’s Titanic Bet: Can Deep-Water Drilling Be Done on the Cheap? (The Wall Street Journal)

when, oil majors start thinking beyond oil…
3. Big Oil Replaces Rigs With Wind Turbines (Bloomberg)

But, some shipowners too think cleaner energy
4a. World’s First LNG-Fuelled Aframax Tankers Ordered (The Maritime Executive)

4b. Crowley Launches LNG-Powered Con/Ro for Jones Act Trade (The Maritime Executive)

But, in the mainstream shipping world, another week, another bailout or blowout …
5a. Korean Shipbuilder Seeks Another Bailout (The Wall Street Journal)

5b. Daewoo Shipbuilding: deep water (Financial Times)

or a dugout…
6. Maersk Line, Hapag-Lloyd Among Carriers Subpoenaed in U.S. Price-Fixing Probe (The Wall Street Journal)

But, some publicly listed companies going long the market, but paying in paper mostly, no hard cash…
7a. BW Sells All Its VLCCs to DHT Holdings (Splash 24/7)

7b. Golden Ocean Inks Agreements to Buy Quintana Shipping’s Entire Fleet (Seatrade Maritime)

A highly recommended private equity fund implodes; only noteworthy to shipping since they were the first to enter shipping in JV-style post financial crisis looking for distressed value; Euromar platform with publicly listed Euroseas (Ticker: ESEAS)
8. Eton Park to Shut Down as $3 Trillion Hedge Fund Industry Faces Turmoil (The New York Times)

Looking for maritime college education, look no further than the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler, just outside New York City.
9. The Young Mariners of Throgs Neck (The New York Times)

And, finally, a story when passion and avocation turn into a (profitable) vocation. We could not argue against seafood and especially New England lobster!
10. A Restaurant’s Sales Pitch: Know Your Lobster (The New York Times)

Sovcomflot’s Products Tanker MT ‘Anichkov Bridge’ entering the Upper New York Harbor with the Manhattan skyline in the background. Image credit: Karatzas Images.

© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.