The recent release of the current Confidence Survey from the international shipping adviser and accountant, Moore Stephens, has highlighted the fact that the maritime industry has shown a steady performance in confidence in the early months of 2018.
The survey was first launched in May 2008 and the overall rating was fixed at 6.8 for all respondents. As a matter of fact, the survey was introduced just a few months before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that had unfortunately fueled a global financial recession. During 2008, the shipping markets were brimming with optimism and the average confidence level was reported to be an incredible 6.8 out of 10.
Ten years since the launch of the survey, the confidence level is recorded as 5.8 out of 10. In 2016, the lowest confidence level was recorded as 5. Experts are of the opinion that due to the financial crisis in Greece in 2010, the confidence level had drastically declined to 5.3 in the next year. However, the confidence level has gradually picked up the pace after 2016 even after going through a period of unpredictable fluctuations.
Surprisingly, even the commencement of Brexit has not affected it in a negative way.
Coming to the present-day scenario, the average confidence level remained the same at the four-year high of 6.4 out of 10 as seen till the month of February, this year itself. The confidence related to the owners was recorded at 6.6 at a four-year high.
On the other hand, the managers’ confidence was hiked to 6.7 from 6.4. The charterers’ rating has also increased to 6.7 from 5 and the confidence rating of the broking sector has been increased to 6.3 from 6.1.
As can be noticed, the confidence rating has peaked the highest for charterers and in followed in quick succession by owners, managers and brokers. It can be deciphered that the number of respondents who had predicted that the finance costs might increase over the coming year, was decreased to a count of 63 per cent from 64 per cent in the previous time.
There is a considerable increase in the number of respondents who were expecting higher freight rates in both the containership and tanker sectors of shipping. Incidentally, incase of containerships, the rating went up from 38 percent to 43 percent, whereas the rating went up from 39 percent to 50 percent in case of the tanker sector.
If we take a look at the dry bulk sector, the rating remained unaltered at 54 percent. The recorded net sentiment was said to be +32 for containerships, +41 for tanker sector and +43 for dry bulk trades. Moreover, around 42 percent of the respondents estimated a level between 1,500 and 1,999 with respect to the changes in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) in an expected period of twelve months.
The percentage has almost doubled since it was merely 25 percent, the last year. According to the views put forward by Mr. Richard Greiner, a Moore Stephens partner, Shipping and Transport, a period of two years has lapsed before the Confidence Survey has recorded a dip in the level of confidence in the maritime industry.
He also stated that the net freight rate sentiment has also undergone a steep increase in all the major tonnage segments. Mr. Greiner reflected on the fact that though the shipping industry has to overcome a lot of hurdles in years to come, it still continues to punch above its weight when it comes to the terms of optimization.
The demand factor is the most important factor that influences the overall performance, which has been declared by 24 percent of the respondents in the maritime field. The next in consideration, the competition factor (20 percent) and the finance costs (16 percent) are the second and third components that have the power to affect the performance. Lastly, the ratings of the ten-year averages for operating prices (10 percent), the fuel prices (8 percent) and the crew supply (5 percent) are way below the standard averages of 12 percent, 11 percent, 11 percent respectively in May 2008.
The reason for the downfall has been identified as the countless fluctuations and economic downturn of fuel costs. For a decade, about 48 percent of respondents have predicted that the financial prices will steadily rise in the coming year. In fact, when the survey was initially launched in 2008, as many as 66 percent of respondents had agreed to it. Over time, the percentage has decreased and currently, the figure reads as 63 percent.
Coming to the question of ten-year averages for the freight markets, there has been a noticeable growth in expectations of higher figures in the dry bulk and containership rates. The ten-year average of the net sentiment in dry bulk +24 whereas the dry bulk rate reads as -3 in 2008.
Similarly, the corresponding numbers for container vessels are +15 and +2, respectively. In case of the tanker sector, the ten-year average figure for the net sentiment is +19, which was +20 way back in 2008. In the first year of the survey, the respondents had published a rating of 5.9 out of 10 regarding the chances of a big investment or development in the upcoming twelve months.
The average was estimated at 5.3 for a decade. In 2010, the expectations had risen to 6 out 10, only to drop down to 4.8 in 2016. Mr. Richard Greiner thinks that the survey shows the sentiments of a volatile shipping industry after going through a rather volatile ten-year period. He said that many major incidents of paramount importance like the Greek debt crisis, the Brexit, the collapse of stock markets, the banking sector crisis, the persistent financial recession around the globe, and not to mention, a shocking level of industry and government bail-outs.
Mr. Greiner agrees to the fact that the past decade has negatively influenced the shipping industry and from which it is still trying to recover. He strongly believes that the confidence level may have been unsteady for a long time, but it has never diminished enough to give up hope.