Battered owners dare to dream for the first time in a decade

Shipowners who had managed to survive the tumult of the past decade dared to peer out of the gloom during 2017. The bruised and battered owning community prayed that the end of the downturn was in sight. And for most sectors it does look hopeful, albeit market fundamentals are more brittle than an icicle this Christmas. Restraint, not something in the DNA of most owners, will be required to make any recovery a meaningful one.

Bargains were on offer throughout 2017 for the brave and the year is likely to go down as a record one for S&P deals with the Greeks accounting for close to a quarter of all secondhand acquisitions, which normally is a sure fire marker that the markets are on the turn for the better.

I’d wager that in hindsight the key theme for the year has once again been consolidation. While in 2016 merger activity centred heavily on the liner trades, this year it spread to other sectors notably tankers and offshore.

Have we hit peak consolidation and does all this merger activity actually deliver improved levels of service and savings to end clients? The jury is out on both of these questions, although it does appear that shipping is playing a game of catch-up with many of its customers having gone through their own phase of consolidation.

Finally, if I could have one thing on my Santa shipping wishlist it would be for my inbox to be bombarded less next year by the new raft of snake oil salesmen – my bullshitometer has rocketed throughout 2017 with the wildest of claims about both the threat and solutions brought by our new cyber world. We need to weed out the fearmongers so that there can be straight, clear thinking on how shipping handles cyber matters going forward.

In the coming months Splash readers will note plenty of changes coming to the site, which we are very excited about. Nevertheless, our commitment to deliver exclusive, hard-hitting news from around the world’s seven seas remains our top priority.

With that, I will pass this column over to our resident cartoonist, The Freaky Wave, who deliberates below on what 2017 has meant for shipping and how our industry celebrates the festive season.

Wishing you all glad tidings, especially for the men and women out at sea, far away from their loved ones.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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