WB Chartering: Supramax Market on a Path to Recovery

During the second quarter of 2016 the dry bulk market witnessed some improvements from the first quarter of the year, which was the worst quarter in the Baltic Supramax Index’s (BSI) history, according to Norway-based dry bulk operator Western Bulk Chartering.

The index followed a remarkably similar pattern to last year albeit at much lower levels.

Rates ended the quarter around USD 6,500/day, which was an improvement of 30% from the beginning of the quarter. As rates hovered around the USD 6,000/day mark for the majority of the quarter, volatility levels dropped again.

The Atlantic basin was the main reason for the BSI uptick, with an increase of 88% to end at USD 8,000/day. The Pacific basin was more subdued but still added 22% after a slow April and May, ending at USD 5,850/day. The rates were helped by an increase in volumes of most commodities in the second quarter of 2016.

Volumes for major bulk improved with increased demand from China for iron ore and coal as a first quarter credit expansion in the country started to take effect. Global volumes for iron ore are up 5.3% quarter on quarter and 5.6% ahead versus year-to-date.

The world’s Supramax fleet grew by approximately 0.8% net of scrapping in the second quarter of 2016. The annualized growth currently stands at 5% which is down from 6.6% at the end of the previous quarter. Supramax scrapping equaled 1.5 million dwt removed from the market as rates remained unattractive especially for older members of the fleet. Deliveries of new vessels came in at 3 million dwt delivered and order activity for new vessels remains virtually non-existent.

Although there were some improvements in the market during the second quarter, Western Bulk Chartering reported red ink with a net loss of USD 11.4 million in the period, against a net profit of USD 1.6 million seen in the same quarter a year earlier. For the first half of 2016, the company’s net loss stood at USD 18 million, compared to a net profit of USD 3.1 million reported in the first half of 2015.

The company said that the Bulk Invest ASA bankruptcy in March had a negative effect on WB Chartering’s ability to arbitrage the market in the second quarter of the year, thus putting a strain on the net time charter margin. The net TC result in the quarter was USD -5.4 million for an operated fleet of 109 vessels, down from USD 6.3 million reported in the first quarter of the year for a fleet of 131 vessels.

Additionally, the continued weak dry bulk market made it particularly challenging to find good opportunities in the spot market, Western Bulk Chartering said.

The company said that the supply and demand balance is expected to remain challenging with a large number of vessels being delivered during 2016, adding that the near term outlook is a continued challenging market.

“The delivery of new vessels is expected to slow down from 2017, as ordering of new vessels has halted and the order book is rapidly declining with the new deliveries this year. Hence, the medium term outlook is a gradual improvement in rates, as long as the demand growth and the recycling of vessels are at a reasonable level going forward,” Western Bulk Chartering said.

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