By Timos Papadimitriou, SnP Broker
“Counter cyclical investments.” usually take place by investing in a “bad” market at the point that ensures that the acquired asset exposes the buyer less. This has always been the essence of investing in most industries. Of course, like everything else, it’s is easier said than done when a market is going through a trough. Apart from the purchase cost, you still have to spend money in order to subsidize the asset until the market recovers. And of course, there is always the question of whether the market has reached a bottom or not. Anyway, all of these are known.
So now that we are experiencing a bullish dry bulk market and a phenomenal container market, it might be logical to speculate that tankers are not far behind on their way to recovery. With that said, investing in tankers is the only counter cyclical move you could do today at least within the 3 vanilla sectors.
Currently, the tanker market continues to remain weak on the back of constrained oil supply from OPEC+, but last year’s record high crude oil inventories have drawn down extensively, currently are at the bottom of the 5 year average range. At the same time, oil demand is set to recover signaling that the tanker trough might be hopefully ending. Goldman Sachs projects oil demand to increase by +5.0 million barrels per day over the next 6 months, with this summer particularly likely to witness the biggest ever oil demand increase. Additional oil supplies will need to flow into the market; OPEC+ has already decided to gradually increase production through July. A favorable scenario would dictate a further increase in OPEC+ supply by Q4, even if Iranian barrels return to the market, in order to cope with the demand.
But up to this date, despite a lackluster tanker freight market, asset values have increased as underlying steel prices have reached record high levels providing support. The increase in tanker asset values has been more pronounced for younger units, where the majority of SnP interest lies, rather than older ones.
Since January, approximately 124 tankers have changed hands, with the majority being AFRAs (58), followed by VLCCs (41) and SUEZMAXs (25). It makes sense for shipowners to look into buying second hand crude ships purely out of speculation as a tanker recovery is well overdue. The majority of the ships sold were in the 13-17 years age bracket, mostly due to high supply of candidates (e.g. approx. 38% of the Aframax fleet is above 15Y Old). It is certain that a lot of buyers bidding on 12-13 year ships would also go after 10Y or 8Y old tonnage if there was availability.
Recently, we have seen an increase in interest for ships built in after 2010 and almost no interest for older ships with the asset value gains shaped accordingly. Indicatively, 10Y old Aframax values are estimated to have increased by +27.0% since Q4 2020, while 15Y old values have only gained +14.0% over the same period. It might make sense to assume that since the anticipated recovery is yet to be seen, buyers are not willing to risk it on older ships. But given what we are currently witnessing on the dry and box sectors is this wise?
We see 10-15 year old container ships that a year ago might have being sold at demolition levels now being fixed for 4-5 years in the low 40k for further trading. We are witnessing the so called obsolete 28k handy fetching above 20k p/d. Although the tanker regulatory environment, makes older crude tankers less competitive in traditional trades where oil majors are involved even in a tanker recovery, the 15Y Old to 5Y old ratio at this point being at approx. 40% (the lowest we have seen is 30% during 2013 and the highest 60% during 2009) might be enticing enough to invest into an older asset and take advantage of a broader tanker market recovery in the near future. In other words, even older units can benefit in a market recovery.
As in the famous quote “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Chartering (Wet: Softer / Dry: Softer)
With the exception of the Panamax sector which enjoyed an improved market activity the rest of the segments witnessed discounts with Capesize suffering the most. The BDI today (08/06/2021) closed at 2,420 down by 148 points compared to previous Tuesday’s (01/06/2021) levels. The crude carrier's market followed the same momentum of the previous weeks. All sectors witnessed another slowdown in activity across the globe. The BDTI today (08/06/2021) closed at 579, a decrease of 19 points, and the BCTI at 458, a decrease of 58 points compared to previous Tuesday’s (01/06/2021) levels.
Sale & Purchase (Wet: Softer / Dry: Firmer)
Owner’s interest shifted to the dry bulk tonnage in the secondhand market with geared sizes monopolizing buyers' appetite. Among the recent deals, the enbloc sale between Clipper and CDB leasing made the headlines last week. Tanker secondhand activity was significantly lower compared to the previous week's sales volume. In the tanker sector, we had the sale of the “CHAMPION PLEASURE” (105,852dwt-blt ‘08, Japan), which was sold to U.K based owner, Union Maritime, for a price in the region of $18.1m. On the dry bulker side sector, we had the sale of the “XIN FENG” (79,700dwt-blt ‘10, China), which was sold to Greek owner, Costamare, for a price in the region of $16.5m.
Newbuilding (Wet: Stable - / Dry: Stable -)
The newbuilding market activity has been busy during the past days with Gas carriers’ units stealing the spotlight for another week. A total of nine LNG and VLGC deals surfaced on the market with Dynagas order of four 200,000 cbm LNG vessels at Hyundai Hi for $198.8 million each being apparently the most notable one while Brave Maritime ordered its fourth 40,000cbm LPG unit at Hyundai Mipo since the start of the year. On the other hand, the number of the dry bulk and tanker newbuilding orders reveals a more conservative approach as far as the owner’s interest is concerned, with rising newbuilding values making the secondhand market more attractive; indeed, both the dry bulk and tanker secondhand activity has been very healthy during the past weeks. Last week, Yangzi-Mitsui shipyard secured an order for one lake-fitted 36,000dwt from Algoma while Belgian owner Euronav inked a deal for two firm plus two optional Suezmax tankers at Hyundai Samho for $66.2 million each. Lastly, the Container sector has been also present; Eastern Pacific concluded a deal for the construction of four conventionally fuelled 7,000teu at New Times in China. The deal includes options for two more units while the price is estimated at around $70.0 million each.
Demolition (Wet: Stable - / Dry: Stable -)
Sentiment in the demolition market remains unclear, with a feeling of uncertainty shading breakers interest for demo tonnage. A couple of factors have shifted the recycling market at a slower pace; the traditionally quiet monsoon season coupled with the ongoing financial budgets in both Bangladesh and Pakistan have led cash buyers to follow a more conservative approach at the time being. However, such an approach had no substantial effect on scrap prices which have retained their average levels steady w-o-w. The shortage of fresh candidates has apparently supported the current high scrap prices on the market. Indeed, Bangladeshi and Pakistani breakers maintained their bids at mid $500/ldt. Indian market is still struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic with only a proportion of the oxygen supplies being destined to recycling yards while its favorable green-recycling tonnage is hard to find. Finally, the Turkish market is alarmed by the historical Turkish Lira depreciation which could have an adverse effect on the scrap prices in the coming weeks.
Please click here to open Intermodal's Market Report for the week 22,2021