A pig of a year ahead?

The Lunar New Year starts tomorrow so what does the Year of the Pig hold for shipping ? Splash consults occasional contibutor Bei Hong to sift through the opinions of Hong Kong’s Feng Shui masters.

In the West, the end of the year is marked by numerous reviews in the press, on radio and on television. Covering the highs and lows of the past 12 months, these reviews prompt either a misty eyed reflection on the year gone by or a sense of relief that a grim year is now past. Perhaps demonstrating why it has now become a global economic superpower, Lunar New Year sees the Chinese looking forward to the year ahead rather than reflecting on the past.

Many of the traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year holidays are based on what will bring luck in the year ahead – why not buying shoes in the month after the New Year chimes in always mystifies me, but I expect that retailers are hoping for a bonanza in the weeks preceding the event so that they can have an extended holiday through February.

For the incoming Year of the Pig, predictions seem mixed and as always with Chinese astrology, slightly confusing to Westerners. Amongst those who are predicted to have a not so lucky year are those born in the Year of the Dog, which perhaps does not bode well for the world in general when one considers that Donald Trump was born in the Year of the Fire Dog and no doubt any bad luck coming his way will be felt well beyond the walls of the Oval Office.

In order to try and get a more accurate take on what the Year of the Pig holds for shipping, I thought it was best to ask some shipping specific questions to one of Hong Kong’s renowned Feng Shui masters. By no means a shipping expert, his closest association to the sea is that he is based in the fishing port of Aberdeen on the south side of Hong Kong, so it was to there we travelled to get an exclusive Splash Year of the Pig Feng Shui forecast.

Giving an overview of the year ahead from a shipowner’s perspective, our soothsayer predicted that the first half would be troublesome, but the second half showed more promise. Based on the performance of the BDI in the last few weeks of the Year of the Dog and the global uncertainties for the next few months in Asia, the US and Europe, perhaps this looks like a fair assessment with the possibility of an IMO 2020-led market boost to come in the second half ? June and July are predicted to be challenging months, so any upturn before then looks like it might not be sustainable for the whole year.

In terms of what shipowners should do to manage this year, the advice is to pay attention to debt collection and be wary of natural disasters, but also good fortune will come to those who take “‘a short trip to the North”. Is this a prelude to a round of newbuilding orders from South Asian shipowners beating a path to Korea, Japan and China or a suggestion that we should all pay more attention to the potential of the Northern Sea Route? When it comes to newbuildings, the advice is that the best time to order new ships is after March 6, which looks like it will tally with when the mega Qatari LNG project will get finalised, so perhaps somebody in Doha is using the same Feng Shui master as Splash.

When asked what should shipowners avoid this year, using the colours grey or brown on ships should be avoided. Gazing over the busy Lamma Channel as we consulted our expert suggests that following this advice could be a bonanza for marine paint suppliers, but perhaps more of a worry was the recommendation to try and avoid registering ships in South Asian countries.

As with broader predictions of who will enjoy good fortune this year, shipowners born in the Year of the Horse and Sheep are rated most favourably, but always remember that the Year of the Pig is the last year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, the reason being that the pig was the last animal to arrive when the Jade Emperor called a meeting. Once the pig arrived, the party could get started, so maybe use this year to be well prepared for the following Year of the Rat.

Whatever the year ahead brings, Bei Hong wishes you Gong Xi Fa Cai.

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