Car carriers rally

The car carrier sector has staged a more swift recovery than initially projected in the early stages of the pandemic, but still remains under pressure for the coming 12 months, according to new research from Clarksons Research.

Data from the UK shipbroker shows car carriers have been getting busier since their nadir was hit in May this year, during the period when much of the world was in a first lockdown from the pandemic.

Clarksons Research is projecting seaborne car trade to fall by 21% this year, a smaller decline than the 34% drop registered in 2009 in the wake of global financial crisis.

16% of seaborne car trade is now hybrids and EVs, up from 6% in 2017

The idle fleet has reduced in recent months and the one-year time charter rate for a 6,500 ceu car carrier had hit $14,500 per day by last month, down 15% year-on-year but with further increases deemed likely in the short term by Clarksons.

Clarksons Research is projecting a 20% rebound for the sector next year, but this would sill leave volumes around 1m units – or 5% – below 2019 levels.

“Market conditions should see improvements alongside limited fleet growth (a 4% decline is forecast on the 2019 fleet), although major uncertainty remains. Further ahead, structural changes in the car industry (e.g. changing consumer habits), impacts from the ‘energy transition’ (16% of seaborne car trade is now hybrids & EVs, up from 6% in 2017), and changing global trade patterns will present both risks and opportunities for the sector,” Clarksons Research noted in its most recent weekly report.

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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