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January 2021 Review

Speculation mounted that the global economy could be be on the cusp of a commodities supercycle. An extraordinarily cold winter across East Asia sent prices for coal and LNG through the roof, sparking sensational growth in freight rates for LNG carriers and capesizes as utilities scrambled to keep their customers warm. LNG carrier spot rates hit an all-time high of $200,000 a day, with one fixture at $350,000 a day while cape rates rallied into profitable territory, pushing up to $25,000 a day.

Crew changes became more difficult as much of the world locked down again following the emergence of several new and more transmissible variants of Covid-19. The Global Maritime Forum’s Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change was launched at the Davos summit this week. The global call to action to address the ongoing crew change crisis focuses on concrete actions that can facilitate crew changes. Singapore and Brazil were among the first countries to commit to ensure maritime workers are at the front of the queue for vaccinations.

Greece’s Avin International ordered the first ammonia fuel ready vessel in the world. The suezmax tanker has been ordered at China’s New Times Shipbuilding. The contract comes with options for two more.

United Overseas Group (UOG), an investment firm controlled by Peter Georgiopoulos and Leonidas Vrondissi, announced plans to acquire Dubai-based United Arab Chemical Carriers (UACC). UACC currently owns and operates 20 vessels.

Maersk confirmed up to 750 containers fell off its 13,100 teu ship, Maersk Essen, midway through a voyage to Los Angeles on January 16. The recent spate of box spills have seen nearly 3,000 containers plummet into the Pacific in the space of just 47 days. By comparison, the annual average number of containers lost at sea around the world from 2017 to 2019 stood at 779.

Monaco-based Scorpio Bulkers announced it will be changing its name to Eneti as it works to finalise a transition out of dry bulk and into the offshore wind sector. A host of owners including Knutsen, Harren & Partner and Crowley Shipping all announced their own plans to enter the booming offshore wind sector this month.

The Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi tanker and its 20 crew were seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on January 4 near the Strait of Hormuz with Iran citing pollution charges, something the ship’s owner, Busan-based DM Shipping, has denied. Diplomats are working to get the ship released.

Japan’s mega yard joint venture is underway finally. Imabari Shipbuilding and Japan Marine United – the country’s two biggest shipbuilders – kicked off operations of their combined Nihon Shipyard on January 1, nine months later than planned thanks to Covid-19 and lengthy regulatory approval processes.

The first liquefied hydrogen (LH2) carrier, the Susio Frontier, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, arrived fully laden in Japan from Australia on January 14 this year, signalling the beginning of the global hydrogen economy, something Japan is determined to lead. The ship headed to the Kobe LH2 Terminal, the world’s first liquefied hydrogen receiving terminal.

Giving an early indication that 2021’s shipping calendar is likely to be decimated in similar fashion to last year, organisers of Nor-Shipping announced plans to shift its show from June to next January. Most sizeable shipping events planned for the first half of this year have already gone digital. A look ahead at the maritime calendar indicates Marintec China in Shanghai in December is the realistic first big shipping exhibition that will likely carry on as planned, potentially becoming the first major international shipping event to be held for 22 months.

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