Clarksons: Contracting Activity Drops to 30-Year Low

The previous year was very weak for newbuild ordering as contracting activity fell to its lowest level in over 30 years in numerical and tonnage terms, according to Clarkson Research.

Low levels of newbuild demand have continued to limit ordering across the majority of vessel sectors, and the majority of shipyards have struggled to win orders. However, record ordering activity in the cruise and passenger ferry sectors provided “a degree of positivity” for European yards in 2016.

The 480 vessels reported ordered in 2016 represent the lowest level of newbuild contracting in over 20 years. While ordering in the containership and tanker sectors declined, the 48 and 46 vessels that were contracted in the bulker and offshore sectors respectively in 2016 represented record lows.

The orders that were placed in 2016 were also smaller when compared to 2015, with owners contracting vessels as single units or in pairs. There were only 10 contracts placed for 5 vessels or more in 2016, compared to 63 contracts in 2015. The number of yards reported to have taken an order for at least one vessel (1,000+ GT) in 2016 fell to just 126, down 47% from last year’s total of 238 yards.

A total of 44 Chinese yards were reported to have secured 212 orders of a combined 40 million CGT in 2016, representing a 66% y-o-y decrease in contracting volumes in CGT terms.

Eleven South Korean yards were reported to have taken orders for 59 ships of 17.8 million CGT in 2016, down 83% y-o-y in CGT terms, while nineteen Japanese yards reportedly took 64 orders in 2016, and contracting levels declined 89% y-o-y to 1.3 million CGT.

Meanwhile, European shipyards secured a reported 93 orders of a combined 3.4 million CGT in 2016. This is the second largest volume of orders in terms of CGT in 2016 and placed European yards ahead of their South Korean and Japanese counterparts for the first time since 1999.

Ordering at European yards in 2016 decreased 29% in numerical terms from 2015 levels, however, in terms of CGT contracting increased by 33% y-o-y. This was greatly assisted by record newbuild interest in the cruise and passenger ferry sectors in 2016 and these vessel types account for 83% of the total CGT ordered at European yards in 2016. 15 orders for large cruise ships (100,000+ GT) accounted for 61% of orders in CGT terms. Of the 35 European yards reported to have taken an order in 2016, only seven won a contract in this sector.

The weak newbuild ordering “has been felt across most vessel sectors and by most shipbuilders,” according to Clarksons.

“The big Asian nations all experienced downturns in contracting, though strong cruise ordering supported some European yards, allowing them to ascend the builder rankings. As we begin 2017, yards in most parts of the world will be hoping for a brighter year,” Clarksons said.

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