S&P, Newbuilding and Demolition Update (August 29th, 2014) – Tanker Market Focus

Since our last report, apologizing-ly more infrequent than we would prefer, the tanker market has been holding fairly well and better in comparison to the dry bulk market. Tanker freight rates have been holding at respectable levels for most of the time year to date, and above operating break-even for most of the sectors and most of the time. Clean product tankers seem to be the weakest link with freight rates well below $10,000 pd (the tremendous ordering and ‘me too’ mentality has finally caught up with the market); on the other hand, gas carriers – especially for long range tonnage, freight rates have been setting new highs on a casual basis – as high as $100,000 pd for certain vessels, on the back of increased trade, increased production and steady demand and constrained tonnage availability, at least at the moment. Mainstream crude tanker vessels have been holding their values surprisingly well, especially for modern tonnage.

China has been increasingly dependent on more crude oil imports: while monthly Chinese crude imports fluctuate based on inventory buildups and refinery expansion, Chinese crude oil imports effectively increased from 4.3 mbpd in October 2013 to 6.1 mbpd in December 2013 to an all-time-high of 6.8 mbpd in April 2014, about 8% growth y/y from 2013Q1. In general, for 2014H1, crude oil tanker rates are at least double the levels from a year ago, with VLCCs and Aframax tankers averaging about $22,000 pd while Suezmax tankers averaging about $25,000 pd in the spot market. Still, these numbers are not terribly healthy and cannot support the cost base of many a modern tanker with high acquisition prices (a VLCC acquired at $100 mil, would need to see close to $50,000 pd in order to support an amortizing mortgage and allow for a single-digit return to investors); again, when these tankers were not making enough money this time last year to pay crewing and insurance, any improvement is godsend. While there are still numerous crude tanker newbuildings on order, in general, the disappointment in the market has spoiled – so far – the appetite for massive orders, and thus the rate of new orders is diminishing at a time when ton mile and demand seems to be holding steady or increasing. The second half of a year is usually more active in movement of crude oil cargoes, thus seasonality is in favor of the market. And looking longer term, crude oil production is projected to increased from about 90 million barrels per diem (mbpd) to 100 mbpd by decade’s end, it has been as reassuring as it can get, given than a couple of years ago nil or ‘negative growth’ was the base-case scenario.

VLCC MT Front Comanche

VLCC Tanker MT„Front Comanche”

While in late July 2014, Frontline Ltd (ticker: FRO) opted to compensate Ship Finance International (ticker; SFL) $58.8 million for the early termination of the charter for three VLCCs (MT „Front Opalia”, MT ‘Front Commerce” and MT “Front Comanche” – all built in Japan in 1999) rather than spend more than $10 mil to pass mandatory special survey and drydock (SSDD) for the vessels, and eventually sell the vessels to Sinokor for $23.5 mil per vessel (a slight premium over their scrap value), a still Fredriksen-affiliated tanker company – Independent Tankers Corporation Limited (ticker: VLCCF) has sold the one-year-older VLCC tanker MT „Ulriken” (1998, 310,000 DWT, Samsung Heavy) at $26 million, admittedly a very strong price for her age; the vessel, however, has valid certificates and good survey position till December 2018. Similarly aged VLCC tanker MT „Neptune Glory” (1998, 299,000 DWT, Daewoo) has been sold at a softer price of $24 mil, with class certificates and survey position good till April 2018; this sale allegedly should have been at premium pricing given the ‘subjects’ to conversion to offshore asset for Nigerian tender. Although survey position has been getting to be a crucial factor for pricing crude tanker vessels around their 3rd Special Survey (15th anniversary from shipbuilder), pricing seems to be vessel and transaction specific, making vessel valuations a rather customized exercise rather then the output of an algorithm. VLCC tanker MT „DS Victory” (delivered in ‘this part of the century’ 2001, 299,000 DWT, Daewoo) was sold to Greek buyers (NGM Energy / Moundreas) at $33.5 million; vessels built after 2000 are priced and depreciated differently than vessels built prior to the millennium, but the MT „DS Victory” seems to be a very good vessel in terms of cargo capacities, specifications and fuel consumption.

Suezmax MT Cygnus Voyager

Suezmax Tanker MT „Cygnus Voyager”

In the Suezmax tanker market, Chevron Shipping has exercised the option to acquire three Suezmax tankers already under their long-term bareboat charter for an undisclosed remuneration; vessels were owned by Independent Tankers Corporation Limited (ticker: VLCCF) and were MT „Cygnus Voyager” (1993, 157,000 DWT, IHI (Japan)), MT „Sirius Voyager” (156,500 DWT, 1994, Ishibras (Brazil)) and MT „Altair Voyager” (135,000 DWT, 1993, Ishibras (Brazil)); these are 20+ year old crude oil tankers and it’s extremely interesting seeing a major-oil-company-affiliated shipping company ‘coming close’ to such old tonnage, whether chartering or ownership. It’s even more interesting seeing Brazilian-built tankers acquired by a major-oil-affiliated shipping company given than Brazilian-built vessel do not exactly enjoy high reputational respect, primarily in terms of quality of steel plate. Recent Suezmax tanker sales have been the sale of MT „Huelva Spirit” (160,000 DWT, 2001, Daewoo) to Middle-eastern buyers at excess of $18 mil, and the very strong price of MT „Cape Balder” (160,000 DWT, 2000, Hyundai Heavy) from German KG-house for conversion at a very strong pricing in excess of $18 mil. A very interesting sale at the very strong price of $65 mil has been reported in early August of MT „Cap Isabella” (158,000 DWT, 2013, Samsung Heavy); publicly listed Euronav, as the bareboat charterer of the vessel with profit sharing in a potential sale, has confirmed the sale in a press release and their book profit of $4.3 mil but not the actual sale price; as buyer for the vessel has been reported Polembros Shipping of Greece who are known to be opportunistic buyers and very much price conscious, this sale deserves special consideration especially given that the vessel is not ‘eco design’.

Aframax MT Maersk Prime

Aframax Tanker MT „Maersk Prime”

In the Aframax tanker market, earlier in August, the Chinese-built in 1998 LR2 tanker MT „DL Iris” (100,000 DWT, 1998, Dalian) was sold at the reflectively very strong price of $10.5 mil. However, the vessel has been sold ‘on subjects’ which demand a premium on pricing; further to it, the vessel had underwent her 3rd SSDD last year at a cost of $4.5 mil with extensive steel place replacing and installation of heating coils, thus the pricing at $10.5 mil is not much flattering or of excess of scrap value (estimated in the $7 mil range) despite vessel certification validity till 2018. Earlier in the year, MT „Maersk Prime” (110,000 DWT, 1999, Dalian) was sold at $12 mil, thus the sale of MT „DL Iris” is not as appealing as it appears on surface; this market is heavily biased against tonnage built in 1998 and earlier. Two weeks ago, Chinese-built modern aframax tankers MT „DT Providence” and MT „Enrica Lexie” (104,000 DWT, 2008, Shanghai Waigaoquiao (SWS, China)) were sold from Italy’s Fratelli Armatori D’Amato Group to two Greek buyers in individual transactions at $33.5 mil each, which appears to be slightly higher than market levels and implying some market optimism. The easiest found comparable sale of Chinese-built aframax tonnage has been the sale of MT „Valdarno”, MT „Vallesina”, MT „Valbrenta” and MT „Valfoglia” (104,000 DWT, 2009, Hudong Zhonghua) which were sold in January this year at $30 mil each from Montanari to affiliates of Teekay (Teekay Investment Limited, ticker: TIL); it would look that the market has been looking up since January for modern aframax tonnage, although the Montanari tonnage was not well marketed for sale or perceived by buyers in January. The slightly older aframax tanker MT „Ambelos” (105,000 DWT, 2006, Sumitomo) was sold by Greek owners (Samos Shipping) to Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) at $33 million, a strong pricing, again from quality Japanese-built tonnage. Just a week earlier, still Japanese-built tonnage MT „Morning Express” (105,000 DWT, 2000, Sumitomo) had achieved the rather anemic price of $11.5 mil from Japanese sellers, but again, more often than not, the way a vessel is marketed for sale affects the sale price indeed, irrespective of market conditions or tonnage quality.

The chemical and product tanker markets have been experiencing a rather calm summer; the freight market has been just acceptable and the orderbook has been a concern for many market players, especially for institutional investors who have had been dominating the market spirits of these sectors in a while. An interesting transaction has been the sale of Hull No 5126 (TBN MT „Amethyst” (50,000 DWT, 2014, SPP Shipbuilding) at SPP Shipbuilding in S Korea from Greece’s Ceres Hellenic Group (Peter Livanos) to Scorpio Tankers (ticker: STNG) at $37.1 million. The price seems to be approximately $2 mil above prevailing market levels, but again, in a becalmed market of freight rates un-expectedly low, one needs a transaction that originates waves or even maintaining the status quo that projections had been built upon.

Handy Chemical / Products Tanker MT „Green Stars"

Handy Chemical / Products Tanker MT „Green Stars”

For smaller chemical tankers, the sale of MT „Green Stars” (36,000 DWT, 2001, Daedong S.B., / IMO III tanker) at $12.5 million has taken place into this rather quiet segment of the market; however, the sale seems to indicate a rather strong market for smaller chemical and product tankers; after all, this market has been under the radar as most emphasis on chemical and product tankers has been for tonnage newer than five-years old and mostly for MR2 tanker of about 50,000 dwt.

Given that summer is seasonally the weakest period of the year for tankers and that this time last year (and the summers before) tankers – especially crude oil tankers – were happy to keep busy at any rate, this summer has been encouragingly robust, so much so as to make many investors believe that tankers are long due their place in the sun, especially since this summer sun has been unduly unkind to the dry bulk market, making any comparisons between market sectors much more favorable.


© 2013-2014 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.

S&P, Newbuilding and Demolition Update (January 19th, 2014) – Tanker Market Focus

Since our report of last week with its headline news of Euronav acquiring the Maersk Tankers VLCC fleet of fifteen vessels at $980 million, freight rates for tankers, primarily crude oil tankers, have seen levels that were almost forgotten, or even non existent any more. VLCC rates have ranged between $40,000 and $50,000 pd for this past week, while Suezmax and aframax tankers saw even higher rates, exceeding $100,000 pd for certain routes, primarily cross-Med and Baltic Sea, based on heavy delays in Bosporus and Libya having a change of heart in terms of oil exports. Clean tankers in the products trade have been ‘floating’ along with LR2s heading to Japan getting less than $10,000 pd, while dirty tankers whether cross-Med or USG-Caribs are getting better reception.

Enlightened sale of MT ALGECIRAS SPIRIT (Image source: shipspotting.com)

Enlightened sale of MT ALGECIRAS SPIRIT (Image source: shipspotting.com)

While Euronav was in the news last week with their transformative acquisition, this week they have been in the news with exceptional pricing for the sale of the 1999-built VLCC MT „LUXEMOURG” (299,000 DWT, 1999, Daewoo) for FPSO conversion to Modec at $28 million. Probably the price is close to $10 million above salvage value and several million from a hypothetical sale for ‘further trading’, but still meaningfully lower than the $35.8 million that Euronav achieved in 2012 for the sale of sistership vessel MT „ALGRAVE” still to Modec for again conversion purposes. Earlier in January, MT „SATURN GLORY” (299,000 DWT, 1998, Daewoo) was sold in excess of $23 million to clients of Sentek Marine & Trade. In the Suezmax market, Avin Oil of Greece has acquired the good vessel MT „ALGECIRAS SPIRIT” (150,000 DWT, 2000, Daewoo) from publicly listed TK Tankers at about $17.8 million. The pricing is a firm improvement over the sale of sistership tanker MT „TENERIFE SPIRIT” (15,000 DWT, 2000, Daewoo) again from Teekay Tankers to Eurotankers in Greece in early November 2013 at about $16.3 million. Still in the Suezmax market, MT „HERO” (156,500 DWT, 2011, Jiangsu Rongsheng) was sold at auction to Greek buyers (Alma) at $51.5 million.

Teekay has been active also in the buying front as they have acquired in a different transaction four modern sistership aframax tankers owned By Montanari but controlled indirectly from a European bank which had to approve any sale (MT „VALLESINA”, MV „VALBRENTA”, MT „VALFOGLIA”, and MT „VALDARNO” (2009/2009/2009/2010, 109,000 DWT, Hundong Zhonghua)) at about $30 million each. We understand that previous potential buyers were not impressed with the quality of vessels, but the pricing had to be ‘right’ given sellers’ price ideas came down sizably since early 2013 at a time when asset prices, rates and momentum were heading the opposite direction. In a sign that there is a big disconnect with tanker tonnage sold before the turn of the century, MT „NORD” (105,000 DWT, 1998, Halla Eng.) achieved $9.8 million, a price no much higher than scrap, but still strong for what vessels of this vintage have been fetching of recent.

The LR1 tanker MT „ANNA VICTORIA” (75,000 DWT, 2004, HHI) was sold to clients of Eletson at region $22 million. In general, the market for product tankers has been cooling off as many players are trying to stay away – let’s say a ‘hangover’ effect from the massive orders in the sector, while we have seen ever increasing inquiry in the crude tanker market, including purchase inquiries for VLCCs, Suezmax and aframax tankers; sometimes we are confused whether such inquiries are legitimate efforts to enter / expand in these markets or cases ‘the tail wagging the dog’. No doubt however, that there is increased levels of inquiries in the segment which could be a sign of potential ‘break out’ of the market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stainless steel parcel tanker MT CLIPPER MAKISHIO (Image source: Wiki Commons)

In the stainless steel parcel tanker market, there is the interesting sale of MT „CLIPPER MAKISHIO” (19,980 DWT, 2009, Fukuoka SB) to clients of Songa Shipping in Norway at just below $27 million. There are no many sales in this niche market in general, so each one of them is noteworthy; the pricing has been fairly strong for a vessel already five years old.

The demolition market seems to be coming back to market slowly after the holidays, but again, when freight rates are solidly in cash flow positive territory, it’s only logical that owners are given an extension to do the inevitable; maybe another trip, maybe another month, but definitely not now. Tankers coming for their third or fourth special survey are the lowest hanging fruit, and the lower quality vessels with opex. Demolition pricing is solidly in the $400/ldt territory, with tankers getting $450/ldt or even more in subcontinent, with about 20% discount in China, at about $350/ldt.

Our report in the dry bulk market has been posted separately due to volume of reported transactions (please click here to access.) Developments in the financial and capital markets have always been of heightened interest, especially the prospects for a new round of stress tests with the European banks. That will be an interesting development to watch, although it seems ever likely that Basel III will have little chance to get implemented as envisioned originally and on schedule; just more regulatory bodies seem to be getting more receptive to the banks’ points of view and also giving higher priority to stimulating economic growth at the cost of curtailing or penalizing banks just because they stand on the wrong side of a benchmark figure.

© 2013-2014 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.

S&P, Newbuilding and Demolition Update (January 18th, 2014) – Dry Bulk Focus

By the end of the week, the notable decline of the BDI and dry bulk freight rates since late last year came to a stop with a marginal improvement on Thursday and Friday, mostly on relatively stronger recovery in the cape market; still, it was a down week for the index, with about 0.75% decline. Crude tankers have been the star of the week, with freight rates improving impressively on certain routes; some improvement is due to seasonality – still, winter season in the northern hemisphere, due to bad weather affecting vessel routing – heavy delays due to fogging in the Bosporus affecting Suezmax tonnage trading Black Sea, and due to lower tonnage availability in the AG – owners have been ballasting en masse VLCCs from AG to WAF for better prospects (probably an interesting point for further analysis, ballasting vessels around the Cape and incurring millions of dollars in bunker expenses in the hope of better prospects in another geography; ‘herd mentality’ possibly, but for now, AG tonnage faithful tonnage got the best of it, and their prospects look good for February, too.) The best markets have been Caribs – USG and cross-Med trading for aframaxes, where in the latter market have benefited by association due to Bosporus delays but mostly have benefited from Libya’s crude exports coming to the market again (as a reminder, just last week, rebel forces had threatened to open fire at tankers approaching terminals for loading, but the economics got the better of the threats, since oil exports translate to hard currency in a desperate country.) One of the highest fixtures has been ExxonMobil’s fixture of Thenamaris’ MT SEAOATHat 260 WS, well in excess of $100,000 TCE for cross-Med voyage.

Activity in the sale & purchase market continues robustly, as hopes for a market recovery seem to be getting stronger hold. Late last week, it was reported athat Marmaras Navigation of Greece has acquired Hull No J0021 for 176,000 dwt capesize vessel with 2014 delivery at Jinhai Heavy Industries at approximately $47 million, and also Greek independent owner Transmed has acquired Qingdao Beihai BC180-26 and BC180-30 hulls (MV CENTRANS RYTHMand MV CENTRANS ETERNAL”) for 180,000 dwt capesize vessels with 2014 delivery at about $48 million, each. These transactions stand out for a couple of reasons: despite the overall pessimism in the capesize market, still, these are acquisitions by ‘real’ independent, operating shipowners who put a lot of their own equity at risk (as opposed to ‘OPM’ investments) which indicates real conviction in the market; further to it, the pricing seems extremely competitive as compared to recent ‘OPM’, highly advertised acquisitions of comparable tonnage, and also compared to standard shipbroker tables with ‘Cape Resales’ markedly in the $50+ million territory.

Pretty woman MV GRAND DIVA!

Pretty lady named MV GRAND DIVA! (image source: http://www.shipspotting.com)

The Kamsarmax vessel MV „MINERAL PEARL (81,500 DWT, 2013, Guangzhou Longxue) has achieved $27 million, while almost comparable vessel MV „PRETTY MASTER(82,000 DWT, 2013, Zhejiang Judger S.B.) was sold at the relatively weak $24 million. Possibly the confused identity name of the vessel may explain the price differential? Panamax bulker MV „TRAVE (75,300 DWT, 2001, Hyundai Samho) was sold to Kassian Maritime in Greece at the rather strong $16.1 million, while MV „GRAND DIVA(75,600 DWT, 2007, Imabari SB) was sold at $21.5 million to Italian buyers (Augustea.) Older panamax MV „GLOBAL TRIUMPH (73,000 DWT, 1996, CSBC Kaohsiung) sold to a scrap related $8 million to Chinese buyers (Shandong Shagang.)

MV DIETRICH OLDENDORFF (image source: Oldendorff Carriers)

MV DIETRICH OLDENDORFF (image source: Oldendorff Carriers)

Ultramax vessels have been in high demand recently, and Greek buyers have acquired four SDARI 64 vessels under construction at Jinling Shipyard (Hull Nos: JLZ9120408-11) ordered by Asia Pacific Enterprises; all vessels are due to deliver in 2014 and price consideration has been at about $30.5 million per vessel. We understand also the Oldendorff Carriers has sold a Crown 63 deign ultramax vessel MV „DIETRICH OLDENDORFF” (63,500 DWT, 2013, C4x35T, Dayang S.B.) to Greek buyers at $31 million, with a market-indexed charter back to the sellers.

Supramax tonnage has also been active, with the MV „FAR EASTERN VENUS (53,500 DWT, 2006, C4x30T, Imabari S.B.) fetching $21 million, while also Japanese built MV „IKAN SERONG (56,000 DWT, 2006, C4x35T, Mitsui Ichihara) achieved excess $ 22 million.  Chinese built and with survey due shortly MV „ORIENT RISE (56,500 DWT, 2010, C4x30T, Qinghan Shipyard) achieved a rather weak $21.5 million from German buyers. Handymax vessels have also been active with sistership vessels MV „PACIFIC CHAMP and MV „PACIFIC ROYAL (43,000 DWT, 1996, C4x25T, H.H.I.) achieving $9 million each, while slightly older but comparable Japanese-built vessel MV „AZURE SKY(45,750 DWT, 1995, C4x30T, Imabari S.B.) achieved a shade below $9 million. Slightly newer and larger, still Japanese built MV „EILHARD SCHULTE (49,500 DWT, 1999, C4x25T, IHI) achieved $12.75 million from Greek buyers, while slightly older and smaller Japanese-built MV „TINA A (42,500 DWT, 1999, C4x30T, I.H.I) achieved $10.5 million by Danish buyers.

In the pure handysize market, MV „DANIELA BOLTEN (23,750, 2007, C4x30T, Shin Kochi H.I.) was sold at just below $15 million, while MV „CS SOLARIS (28,500 DWT, 2001, C4x30T, Imabari S.B.) was sold at a shade less $13 million. Large handy MV „CARL OLDENDORFF(31,500 DWT, 2002, C4x30, Saiki) was sold to undisclosed interests at $14.1 million.

Definitely lots of activity to report, and this is only in the dry bulk market. We understand that most of these sales, primarily of ‘older’ tonnage, are individual sales (as compared to en bloc ‘corporate’ sales reported in our previous report) by independent owners, signifying still strong activity in the market and expectations for a recovery. And, as not to be any doubts about the strong market recovery expected – sometime, somehow – about eighty-five (85) were ordered so far in 2014, about four (4) vessels per diem, which, surprisingly, is well below 2013 activity when on average, seven (7) vessels were getting ordered each and every single day of the year, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included.

Long live the market recovery!

© 2013-2014 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.

S&P, Newbuilding and Demolition Update (December 15th, 2013)

Since our last market review two weeks ago, Nelson Mandela, a great human being and a great leader passed away in South Africa, but ‘selfie pictures’ by dignitaries attending the memorial service got as much attention as the man himself. In North Korea, a 67-year old ossified mummy was summarily executed on charges (among others) of ‘alcohol abuse’ and ‘womanizing’  (no wonder N Korea is not a shipping hub), while on reflection of a bull market in equities, MasterCard International (ticker: MA) has announced a 10-for-1 stock split.  Despite the bull market in equities (and commodities, and …), many companies are still hesitant to initiate stock splits – possibly reflecting on the QE-propelled bull market rather than consumption and confidence driven earnings, and thus, MasterCard’s split of about $800-share got attention; for shipping equities, reverse-stock-splits in order to meet the regulatory $1/share threshold are still more common than normal stock splits.

However, shipping’s proxy index, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), has been having an exceptional time and closing at 2,330 on Friday, up approximately 28% in December, and 230% up year-to-date (BDI stood at 698 at the close of 2012.) The proverbial cat is out of the bag now, and more analysts are calling for a market recovery, basically on the main thesis that things are not as bad as they seem and the outstanding world orderbook has been declining over the last year as a percentage of the existing world fleet.  That may be the case, but institutional investors keep ordering (or supporting companies to order) more newbuildings; and the Chinese have announced these week some meaningful subsidies for still more newbuildings for Chinese-flagged tonnage.  Despite any doubting, we should be as festive as the season we are heading to, and note that presently, crude tanker spot freight rates – for ALL asset classes are higher than $30,000 pd, capesize vessels are making more than $40,000 pd, and in general most vessels – outside smaller containerships – trade on a cash positive basis; no a small achievement, especially having all markets moving higher on sync.

MV „CAPE PROVENCE” in laden condition (Image source: www.shipspotting.com)

MV „CAPE PROVENCE” in laden condition (Image source: http://www.shipspotting.com)

Cargill International has sold three capesize newbuilding contracts to the Scorpio Group (180,000 dwt, 2015, SWS) at a robust $57 million each, while simultaneously acquiring slightly older but much more competitively priced comparable tonnage: MV „SCOPE” (174,000 dwt, 2006, SWS) at $33 million, MV „PROUD” (178,000 dwt, 2009, SWS) at $42.5 million, and MV „CAPE PROVENCE” (177,000 dwt, 2005, Namura Shipbuilding) at $34 million, basically saving them $3 million per vessel per annum in depreciation.  We understand that the vessels acquired have short-term charter attached at below present market levels. The modern capesize MV „HOUHENG 3” (180,000 dwt, 2012, HHIC-Phil) was sold at about $50 million to Chinese interests, a rather soft price (compared to Cargill’s vessels), but the shipbuilder for the MV „HOUHENG 3” is not on the preferred list of many buyers. The older and out-of-class MV „GLORY ADVANCE” (171,000 dwt, IHI, 1996) was sold at auction at a scrap related price of $10 million to Chinese buyers, while the smaller and slightly older MV „PACIFIC CHALLENGER” (149,000 dwt, Dalian, 1995) managed a better pricing at $12 million with six-month forward delivery to her buyers, Winning Shipping in China.

MV „DYNA CRANE” (Image source: www.shipspotting)

MV „DYNA CRANE” (Image source: http://www.shipspotting)

On the panamax dry bulk front, the vessel MV „MARINE PROSPERITY” (73,500 dwt, Sumitomo, 2001) achieved a very respectable $16.5 million from buyers of Swiss Marine, while the NYK-controlled, gearless MV „SHIRANE” (77,500 dwt, Mitsui SB, 2000) obtained a solid $15.5 million from Indonesian interests. [This is the second dry bulk vessel disposed by NYK of late, as we recently reported the sale of MV „HOKURIKU MARU” (94,250 dwt, Mitsubishi HI, 1995) at $8.9 million to Chinese buyers]. As a general comment, panamax bulkers are not behaving greatly as an asset class in the last year, as their market seems to get cannibalized from bigger vessels (kamsarmax, post-panamax, etc) and smaller vessels (ultramax, etc) and there is the general belief that once the expanded Panama Canal opens, ‘panamaxes’ will be one of the worst hit asset classes. The Supramax market has been more active in general, with MV „DYNA CRANE” (55,750 dwt, Mitsui SB, 2006) achieving a solid price of $21.5 million to Olympic Shipping, which sale compares well with the sale in last month of MV „MEDI SHANGHAI” (56,000 dwt, Mitsui SB, C4x30T, 2005) at $19.5 million. The slightly older MV „ACS DIAMOND” (53,250 dwt, New Century, C4x35T, 2005) achieved a lowly $15 million. Lauritzen Bulkers has also disposed of MV „TOUCAN BULKER” and sistership vessel MV „THUNDERBIRD BULKER” (58,000 dwt, Tsuneishi Cebu, C4x30T, 2011) at about $30 million each to Swiss Atlantique.

MV „TOUCAN BULKER” (Image source: www.shipspotting.com)

MV „TOUCAN BULKER” (Image source: http://www.shipspotting.com)

The handysize / ‘handymax’ markets have also been busy, with MV „NEW RAINBOW” (42,740 dwt, IHI, C4x30T, 1998) achieving about $11.25 million, while MV „AZURE SKY” (45,750 dwt, Hashihama, 1995) a comparable price of about $8.5 million. In the handysize proper market, MV „TUNA 7” (32,250 dwt, Saiki HI, C4x30T, 1999) obtained a very respectable price in excess of $11 million, while same-builder but smaller vessel MV „TAO TRIUMPH” (23,750 dwt, Saiki HI, C4x30T, 1997) obtained $7 million. It was a better deal for the buyers of MV „SUPER ADVENTURE” (28,750 dwt, Tsuneishi Zosen, C4x30T, 1996) at $8.2 million, while the Turkish controlled MV „HANJI INSTANBUL” (27,500 dwt, Hanjin HI, C4x30T, 1997) obtained $9 million. MV „RABEE” (28,750, C4x30T, 1998) was sold to Russian buyers at slightly less than $10 million. Wisdom Marine has allegedly flipping two handysize newbuilding contracts (34,000 dwt, Namura, C4x30T, 2016) at $25 million each to unidentified buyers, while two prompt resales from Jiangmen Nanyang (39,000 dwt, Jiangmen Nanyang, C4x30T) to European buyers fetched $23 million each. One can tell right away that this market appreciates quality, which is reflected in pricing.

The tanker market overall has been fairly calm on the sale & purchase front, as people are still looking at charter rates in disbelief: while VLCC rates have been improving for more than a month now, since our last weekly update Suezmax and Aframax rates jumped from less than $10,000 per diem (which has been more or less the year average) to above $30,000 per diem. Oh, the miracles of the season! Ridgbury Tankers in the US have confirmed the acquisition of MV „RIO GENOA” (160,000 dwt, Universal SB, 2005) at $35.5 million, and Indonesian owners disposed of MT „GAS BALI” (5,000 cbm, Shitanoe Zosen, Pressurized/Butane, 2007) to clients of Epic Gas at $13.5 million.

The demolition market has been rather subdued (inversely correlated to freight rates,) however, recently announced subsidies in China this past week may have greater implication for the market overall than so far noted. You can read our commentary on the announcement by following this link!

The markets definitely have been busy, no doubt, for freight and sale & purchase; one has to make hay while the sun shines as they say, or ‘hoist one’s sails when the wind is fair’ as we people in shipping ought to say. Market activity is good and always welcome, but one also has to take into consideration that in about a week, the market will be ‘closed’ for a month; thus, charterers and everyone else are trying to clear their desks before go on leave, and some of this activity may very well end up being just seasonal.

© 2013 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.

A Ship-brokerage ‘App’ Soon?

Ever since Steve Job’s iPad tablet brilliantly defined a market segment that didn’t exist before (or at least a customer need/want that had not been decently exquisitely addressed before from a technological point), many companies have been offering their products as an ‘app’ version, from publishers to messaging services to providing updates on traffic conditions. Why then not a ‘ship brokerage app’ to provide both info on commercial vessels and mainly allow for an ‘exchange’ for buyers and sellers to buy vessels?

Why this has not been done so far? Why not eliminate the ‘hassle’ of dealing with (and cutting out) shipbrokers and save on the broker commissions? About one thousand vessels were sold in the secondary market in 2012 having a collective value of $13 billion and generating nominally $130 million in shipbrokerage commissions (again, nominally speaking, and assuming just 1% commission per transaction). There were also about 1,500 orders for newbuildings and another 1,350 vessels sales in the demolition market in 2012. Obviously, a platform that could streamline the sale & purchase process could provide significant savings to the buyers / sellers, and also make the market more efficient from an economic point of view. Why not then?

Moving the shipbrokerage business online has been tried before, by several parties actually, in the frenzy days of ‘dot com’, and all those efforts failed miserably; given such poor track record, any attempt to try again with an ‘app’ platform this time would make many a prospect app developers twice hesitant.

What’s the point?

First, shipbrokerage, like many aspects of shipping, is an extremely personable business and depends heavily on relationships, personal interaction and trust. The average price of a vessel sold in 2012 was about $13 million, which especially in a down market like the one we are experiencing, is a sizeable chunk of money for a piece of equipment/property. What’s the best price each time, ‘price discovery’ as economists like to say, is a trial-and-error attempt, each time there is a transaction, no matter how recent the ‘last done’ has been and how ‘commonplace’ the vessel is; vessels, unlike a bottle of Coke – used as a ‘typical’ transaction in a previous post – do not come with an official price tag.  The seller, within the prevailing market conditions, is trying to maximize the price they can get the buyer(s) to pay, and vice versa. Even small slips during the negotiations on pricing can result in several hundred thousand dollars ‘left on the table’; and $130,000 is just 1% of the price of last year’s average price, but still it pays a captain payroll for a year from the company’s operating budget. Negotiating the price is always a sensitive matter and takes skill and expertise; sometimes there is only one buyer, and a sense of urgency has to be created in order to put pressure on that lonely buyer to warm up and pay up; maybe keep marketing the vessel and ‘threaten’ to bring more buyers to the ‘bidding’; sometimes, when there are no other buyers around, some ‘bluffing’ may do the trick; sometimes, the seller can give up on few points that have little value to the seller but real value to the buyer (allow crew onboard a bit longer, changing the jurisdiction of the sale by delivering the vessel to a different port, etc). Buyers are not known to put their best number forward for the purchase of a vessel, and this ‘massaging’ to get a higher price gets a masterful broker to get it done by personal interaction.

Norman Rockwell's 1951 painting Saying Grace sold for $46 million

Norman Rockwell’s 1951 painting Saying Grace sold for $46 million

Sotheby’s and Christie’s and other auction houses in fine art (mainly) still keep their business model in the physical market with premier real estate locations and high overhead, luxurious style; of course it works best for the auctioneer’s to create the right image for their services, but still it’s difficult envisioning international buyers bidding online for a $200 million Monet masterpiece (or a $46 million Norman Rockwell sold last week.) Buyers have to be ‘put under pressure’ for time, by the market, and the competition, being reminded that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (after all, Monet’s do not come to the market often, and neither good vessels at right prices – which also builds up on their value), and the message and feedback while the transaction is developing has to be passed on to buyers very promptly and clearly – which is actually one of the real services brokers of all types provide. eBay’s sale model may work well for mostly inexpensive everyday life stuff, but expensive objects usually are much more ‘labor intensive’ during their transacting.

Then, there is the cause and reasoning for which shipowners may sell their vessels: quiet often, most sellers – for good reasons, we reckon – do not put their vessels on the market for sale; they may not be active or determined sellers, they may not be sellers at all actually, or they may do not want to pass the wrong message to the market (by definition, something up for sale is negotiable on pricing and everything other respect); on the other hand, they may be sellers if the price is right, or the terms of the sale are enticing (let’s say upon termination of a charter sometime in the future, etc). The brinkmanship of good brokers is to ‘dig up’ transactions where none exist by convincing shipowners to be sellers or buyers, to bring them together and to get them to agree on pricing and the terms of a sale. For a shipowner who is looking for a vessel to buy, contacting their preferred shipbroker may be the only way to source vessels for now; what would be the alternative, to do a google search? But, on this, a bit later.

Besides the price, and negotiating on price, usually vessels are not uniformed assets despite a certain degree of standardization; they vary in many respects from the day they were conceived by engineers on a drawing board as newbuildings, to the custom modifications of an attentive shipowner, to the supervision and special care they got during construction, to the maintenance they were privileged to during their trading lives, etc No two vessels are alike, and thus, during the sale, a lot of technical information and records have to be passed between buyers and sellers, physical inspections have to be arranged, a lot of questions have to be answered, and many more exchanges have to take place in order to reach some sort of information symmetry between buyers and sellers. How a seller would otherwise share such info, some of which may be proprietary? Definitely, not by listing it on Craigslist; possibly by setting up ‘secured rooms’ or databases digitally that would be accessed by password, which is a costly and laborious process (that would undermine any cost savings by sidelining the shipbroker.)

Selling Ships on the Rocks - MV „SEALAND EXPRESS”

Selling Ships on the Rocks – MV „SEALAND EXPRESS”

To the frustration of financial institutions as buyers of shipping assets, a lot of ‘horse trading’ and emails have to be exchanged even for a sale to get any traction. And, then again, once both buyer and seller have agreed on the main terms, still a lot can happen to have everyone associated with the transaction to shift in overdrive; the market may be changing, whether for asset pricing or freight, to favor one side and motivate the other to find ways to walk away from the agreement; the financials of the seller or the buyer may be changing and make the transaction more complicated. Or even, new information comes to the market, or to the attention of the buyer or seller. One of the most memorable experiences in our shipping career has been the discovery, once agreement of main terms had been reached for the sale of a multi-vessel package between a major US-based leasing company to a private Greek buyer a few years ago, that one of the vessels, several years before the transaction, had run aground on soft sand in South Africa; while the damages from the grounding per se were minimal, the grounded vessel shifted with the tide and hit a centuries-old canon buried in the sand, which cannon penetrated the hull causing some shaft damage. It took many many long hours on the phone to get all the issues resolved and salvage the transaction – which past damages were reflected on vessel records and affected insurance premiums, and the transaction closed indeed as planned (and delivering exceptional value to our client.) If this brokerage transaction was taking place through an ‘app’, there is no that would have closed, since all the ‘soft shoe-ing’ took place once agreement of main terms had been reached.

A shipbroker, besides brokering the ‘asset’, actually provides transaction brokerage by negotiating the asset and also the terms relating to the sale and exchange of ownership and providing consulting work for having the sale conclude successfully. And to close a transaction with many moving parts in an ever moving market, transaction brokerage often means managing the transaction and the principals of the transaction, too. As we saw in previous article about the main terms of a Memorandum of Agreement based on the Norwegian Sale Form (NSF 93), there are many terms to be agreed upon for the sale, a lot of details to be tended to, and most of these terms and details are not always easily quantifiable and invariably expensive in properly settling them. Thus, transaction brokerage in shipping is one of the reasons that still maintains a ‘moat’ around the profession. But as in every other industry, the digital age is an indiscriminant industry disruptor; possibly, sooner or later, there may be a new mouse trap based on an ‘app’. Who would ever thought that commercial loans, annuities and insurance policies could be sold in the secondary market not only through brokers but by establishing an digital exchange and have the documentation and paperwork streamlined and securely posted online for buyers to see and evaluate and eventually bid high pricing? There is no need for googling for loans and loan terms, but there is an Exchange for it! Or, there may be an ‘app’ for brokering vessels!

Any suggestion for a lucky name of such an ‘app’?

© 2013 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.