ShipStore web site ShipStore advertising
testata inforMARE
ShipStore web site ShipStore advertising

29 November 2021 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 15:10 GMT+1





The Chemical Carrier Market in 2001

 
After experiencing a morose period over the last four or five years, characterised by very low freight rates and an important surplus of supply over demand, the chemical carrier market started moving up during the fourth quarter of 2000. This tendency continued at the start of the year 2001 practically without interruption until the month of September. The tragic events of September 11th in the United States brought about an abrupt halt to spot activity throughout all markets and at the end of the year, as we write, no recovery has really manifested itself. Nonetheless, it should be noted that all through the year and even after the events of September, term contracts have remained extremely active and have allowed owners a comfortable level of employment for their vessels.

The year 2001 has also given rise to an overall improvement of the financial standings of the main owners and operators, which is a significant achievement. It has been quite a time since such a situation has occurred.

The financial results posted by the main operators over the first six months of the year give an idea of the magnitude on the increase in freight rates as compared to 2000. Stolt-Nielsen showed a 64 % improvement on turnover over the first two quarters and Odfjell-Seachem 40 % over the same period.

The general improvement this year in the chemical sector can be explained by both structural and temporary reasons.

From a purely structural point of view, whereas the market over the last few years was suffering from a chronic imbalance due to the important surplus tonnage, the year 2001 gave place to a more balanced situation often in favour of owners with demand in certain markets being in excess of vessel availability.

Freight rates have logically benefited from this better balance. The rise registered already in the first quarter, carried on right up to the end of the second quarter, then marked a pause during the summer months. The slowing down of the world economy, particularly in America which plays such a prominent role, made itself felt at the middle of the year, and the resulting drop in demand mainly for voyages from the US Gulf, led to a substantial drop in spot rates at this time. These lower levels have spread throughout all markets following the events of September 11th. However, the overall balance in supply and demand which exists and seems not to be under threat for the next three years means that the petrochemical sector, in contrast to others such as the dry bulk, containers and tankers which have all seen plunging rates, has freight levels which have levelled out but without any appreciable drop.

Another structural change which has contributed to the general improvement of the market has been the rationalisation within the chemical carriers, put in place by owners several years ago in order to reduce costs and to adapt to the new regulations and ever more stringent requirements in terms of security and efficiency. Mention should be made of the agreement between Stolt-Nielsen and Tokyo Marine on the routes to the Far East done in order to reduce the competition and the risks of port delays.

Other factors but of a temporary nature also contributed to the positive improvement of financial results for owners this year. On the one hand the continuous drop in crude oil prices which have gone from $24 per barrel at the beginning of the year to finish at $18 at the end, has resulted in lower bunker prices and thus lower operating costs. On the other hand, the strong dollar in relation to European currencies has helped European owners and has also had a beneficial effect on their financial results.

Clearly at year’s end, uncertainties as to the future of the chemical carrier sector exist. These uncertainties lie mainly in the increases for insurance premiums to be applied for next year on hull & machinery, the P&I Clubs or risk premiums paid out to the crews, but above all on the timing and the extent of the recovery in the world economy.

Freight rates
The North European market maintained a good level of freight rates with a steady increase right up till the third quarter, thanks to the solid covering on term business and a well-sustained spot market. At the end of the year, a significant drop in rates came with the slow-down in spot activity, but generally it was a good year for owners with rates rising by some 10 / 20 %.

Inter-Mediterranean activity has become a two-tiered market distinguished by some charterers requiring only quality ships, with the result that good modern vessels have obtained substantially higher levels.

The North European short-sea traffic, movements to and from the Mediterranean, have experienced significant fluctuations in the volumes and freight rates, with notably a strong demand in the first quarter in the northbound voyages and then in the second quarter on the southbound voyages. Rates increased by as much as 20 % in the peak period and by some 10 % on average over the year, which has resulted for 3,000 ton chemical lots in freights at around $30 per ton for cargoes into the Med and some $27 / 28 per ton on the Med / North Europe leg.

On movements from US to Europe, the market has remained quiet up until September, despite certain occasional variations. Since the events of September 11th, spot activity has slowed down considerably, in particular for "trading" cargoes. The contract nominations however have been kept at a high level throughout the year, even despite a slight reduction since the month of September.

In the beginning of the year freight rates for easy chemical lots of 3,000 tons between Houston and Rotterdam stayed at the levels that they experienced at the end of 2000, namely in a bracket between $37 / 39 per ton. At the end of the first quarter, rates dropped down to $35 per ton and steadied out at this level until the middle of the summer.

The drop registered at this time worsened with the slowing down of the American economy and the events in New York in September, to achieve a level of about $33 per ton at the end of the year.

On movements from Europe to US, the market continued to rise during the first quarter with a peak coming in March / April 2001. Big parcel lots of oil products and MTBE started seeing lower rates as from May onwards and this tendency carried on up until the end of the year. Cargoes of chemical products however have remained at healthy levels both in terms of volume and rates right through the year.

For 5,000 / 7,000 ton lots of easy chemicals from Rotterdam to Houston, freight rates went from $29 per ton at the start of the year up to $39 per ton in March / April and have settled down since May to a level of $32 / 35 per ton.

Traffic from Europe into the main ports of S.E. Asia has been on the increase and freight rates have also risen considerably over the year, with a high at the end of the summer. Four main owners share this market, covering for the most part contracts in the hands of industrialists.

On the spot market rates for lots of 1,000 tons requiring stainless steel tanks have increased by some 20 %, for example out of Rotterdam into Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan the market has gone from $55 per ton to $65 per ton.

Nonetheless it should also be noted that at year’s end the fall-off in activity linked to a policy of wait-and-see, in particular by China and her Asian interests, preferring to hold off for the cost of raw materials to drop further before restocking. The events of September 11th as well as the over-optimism in the demand forecast have also provoked a lack of confidence with exporters of chemical products.

This slow-down has brought with it a drop in the market which is now back to the freight rates that were seen at the end of last year.
 

chemical tanker spot rates

The fleet
A slower rate of increase in the chemical carriers fleet which began during the past two years has continued in 2001. It results from the dramatic drop in new orders placed by the main operators since 1999, pursued in 2000 and maintained this year. The important fleet modernisation programme undertaken in the years 1995-1998 had as consequence a plethora of new tonnage coming into service during the years 1997-1999. The protracted depression in chemical carriers resulting from the Asian crisis of 1997 combined with the excess tonnage, seems at last to have caused owners to be more prudent when investing. The declining rate in the increase of the fleet is however offset by the very low level of scrapping. The drop in the number of vessels on order would have been even more significant without the delay in delivery dates of a number of ships in certain shipyards, which are experiencing technical problems in completing orders.
 

chemical carrier orderbook (dwt)

chemical carrier orderbook (number)

Since the beginning of the year, 22 vessels for 406,000 dwt have come into service, compared to 78 vessels for more than 1 million dwt delivered in 1998, or 44 chemical carriers for 800,000 dwt delivered last year. The average size of these ships is 18,500 dwt. To this total however, three vessels of 59,000 tons should be added which are due for delivery by the end of the year but will probably slip into 2002 for two of them. The orderbook for the end of 2001 amounts to 39 ships for 960,000 dwt. The majority of orders do not extend beyond 2003. New orders placed this year have gone mainly to the Japanese who have offered relatively prompt deliveries: 22 vessels for 448,000 dwt are foreseen to come into service in 2002, and nine vessels for 267,000 dwt in 2003, the balance being the delayed orders placed in Poland for the account of Odfjell-Seachem. This year none of the main chemical carrier operators have placed orders and essentially new orders have come from Japanese operators such as Iino Kaiun who have invested in new ships to replace older units.

The level of scrapping has remained extremely low. It is unfortunately a recurring theme in this sector which is preventing a steady elimination of the oldest units. Since January 2001 only six vessels for 32,720 dwt have been sent to the scrapyards. These figures are to be compared with last year’s eight ships for 93,000 dwt and in 1999 with only three for 7,200 dwt.

As we mentioned last year, in addition to vessels dedicated to transporting chemicals, there is a growing number of coated product tankers, classified IMO II or III, which can be added and whose orders have virtually exploded since the ‘Erika’ incident of 1999. In the 25,000 / 50,000 dwt size category, no less than 220 vessels for 9 million dwt are on order and 35 for 1.3 million dwt have been delivered since January. These ships can potentially compete with the stainless ships for transporting easy chemicals. Nonetheless, one can say that the chemical carrier fleet is in the process of getting into better shape.
 

* * *

Globally despite the rather pessimistic economic forecasts for 2002, the chemical carrier sector seems well placed to face the difficulties that lie ahead in the coming months. According to the experts, the slowing down of the economy should produce a pause in the trend towards higher freight rates in this sector for next year, and consequently give reduced returns in the short term for the main operators.

The downturn in the economy will probably bring about certain changes in the flow of traffic, but on the whole demand is healthy and should even see a slight increase of 4 % for next year, above the increase in supply which is planned to be about 2 % in 2002.

We do not foresee an important risk of over-capacity of tonnage over the next few years, except in the case of a collapse in the product tanker market which could then hypothetically look for work within the chemical carrier trade. On balance we believe that freight rates should stabilise over the coming months before starting to pick up again with the predicted, or at least hoped for, recovery of the world economy in the second half of 2002.
 

chemical - Pointe du Croisic Pointe du Croisic
6,500 dwt, blt 2001 by Kleven Florø, owned by Navale Française
The second-hand market for small product tankers and chemical carriers
The lack of interest posted by the large chemical charterers and even more markedly the oil Majors for single-hulled vessels has been the most notable aspect of the year 2001. It helped push up the value of the rare double-hulled vessels being offered second-hand. We can give as examples the ‘Sioux’ built in 1981 (6,400 dwt, coated / coiled) which went for the sum of $3 million, the ‘Bacalan’ (11,500 dwt, built in Finland in 1982, coated / coiled / ice class) sold for $8 million and the ‘Trelsi’ built in 1991 (15,000 dwt, 17,000 cbm, coated / coiled) sold for $16.5 million.

2001 was thus a year, which was orientated principally towards newbuilding of small product tankers (between 5,000 and 15,000 tons). Turkish shipyards were able to offer numerous resales available for fairly prompt delivery, amongst which were the ‘Pyla’, the ‘Clipper Legend’ and the ‘Clipper Leader’ (10,000 dwt, 12,000 cbm) and the ‘Sukran C’ (4,700 dwt).

Nonetheless, the number of second-hand sales was considerably higher, which goes to show that it is always possible to find buyers who are looking for valuable employment of ships, be it even single-hull, as long as the price is right. We can illustrate this with the sale to Aksay of two chemical carriers the ‘San Mateo’ and the ‘San Pedro’ (11,300 dwt, stainless steel and zinc coated, built in 1988) for $10 million en bloc.

In general it can be said that 2001 is in the post-’Erika’ era characterised by a marked acceleration of the fleet’s renewal with a confirmed preference by charterers for the 10,000 / 15 000 tons size category.

If we were to judge the chemical carrier market solely within its own confines and criteria, we could conclude that the offer and demand of tonnage is in better balance than two years ago. This is borne out by a firming up of freight rates since the end of 2000. However, we should also take into account the growing number of product tankers which are also suitable for chemical cargoes (as can be witnessed by the numerous product/chemical carriers of 35 / 45,000 tons, ordered in Korea or Croatia this year). The decline in rates, which we are experiencing currently in the sector of product tankers, could weigh indirectly on that of the chemical traffic which is exposed to these ships. We expect in consequence that ships above 20,000 tons in the oil market and the easy chemical sector will play an increasingly reciprocal role as a balancing factor in the coming years, even if in general the chemical carrier market will remain less volatile than that of the products which is more exposed to the spot market.

For vessels under this size category, the prospects are good given the distance still to be covered before a renewal of the fleet meets the growing requirements of the oil charterers and the lack of flexibility of demand in this segment of the market. Once again the proverb of Florian will prove to be true, namely that "To live happily, be discreet".
 



Shipping and Shipbuilding Markets in 2001

I N D E X





Search for hotel
Destination
Check-in date
Check-out date



Index Home Page Forum

- Piazza Matteotti 1/3 - 16123 Genoa - ITALY
phone: +39.010.2462122, fax: +39.010.2516768, e-mail