Reader Michael appeared to be on a mission on Saturday and sent quite a few links on trade/shipping related matters. They were remarkably consistent in pointing to simply dreadful conditions and no expectation of near-term improvement. Indeed, further deterioration seems entirely possible.
From Lloyd’s List:
Freight rates in the Asia-Europe trades have crashed to record lows as consumer demand continues to crumble, with the crisis compounded by the first signs of customer insolvencies….
A 20 ft container could now be shipped from Hong Kong to Hamburg for as little as $350, excluding surcharges, compared with around $1,400 per teu last summer.
“In all my years in the business, I do not ever remember such difficult trade conditions,” said the trade director of a big Asian line….
“Has it been as bad as this before? No, not in my 20 years,” the trade manager at another global carrier concurred.
Yves here. By definition, that includes the Asian crisis of 1997-1998. Back to the piece:
To make matters worse, lines are coming under pressure to quote all-in prices rather that split ocean rates from currency, bunker and terminal handling surcharges. As rates slide, so they are also starting to incorporate the additional charges that were being levied separately….
Adding to the extreme trading conditions are demands on lines from shippers for extended credit as the banking meltdown hits global commerce.
Late payments are on the increase, and anecdotal reports suggest that non-vessel owning carriers are beginning to be hit by bad debts and bankruptcies among their smaller customers. The fear is that this situation will snowball, with lines now keeping their cashflow under intense scrutiny….
The sense of alarm was apparent at last week’s Box Club meeting when the heads of the world’s biggest container lines held a series of top level meetings, with rumours rife in the Geneva corridors that some newbuilding orders will be cancelled because of the liquidity squeeze.
That does not seem to have happened yet, but ordering activity has come to a virtual standstill as banks demand that owners contribute up to 30% of newbuilding costs from their own pockets.
From a separate Lloyd’s List article:
Dry bulk owners could find themselves in breach of their loan conditions and some may face bankruptcy after a record drop in secondhand values.
The issue of falling asset values that are linked to loans is now a big problem according to brokers.
“As long as secondhand vessel prices continue to fall, which seems likely in the short-term, and equity prices fall or at the very least remain at current levels, our industry has a serious problem,” Imarex frieght options broker Jeffrey Landsberg told Lloyd’s List.
“As the weeks and months progress, I expect more companies will have problems paying back their loans.”
In the last 12 days there has been on average one bankruptcy every three days, which is “just the start”, according to Tufton Oceanic research director Andreas Vergottis.