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Maritime CEO Forum: Would President Trump be good for tankers?

Singapore: As any conference organiser will tell you, getting audience participation is both vital and tricky. When, however, you have Frank Coles, the never dull ceo of Transas on hand, an entertaining, interactive event tends to be on the cards.

Coles’ hand popped up to ask the very first question at this week’s inaugural Maritime CEO Forum. Would any of the panellists on the tanker session vote for Donald Trump and what impact would he have on the tanker trades if he won the US presidency, Coles – who is half American – asked.

Frans van de Bospoort, managing director of ship finance in the eastern hemisphere for DVB Bank, said Trump being elected would create “uncertainty and unrest”. He cited a regular client of his Angeliki Frangou, who often says: “What’s bad for the world is good for the tanker market.”

Alan Hatton, ceo of First Ship Lease Trust, agreed, saying there would be “positive repercussions” for the tanker markets were Trump elected.

Tim Huxley, ceo of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings, commented on the US primaries, “When you look at the crop of candidates you’ve got, you’d pick the dog with least fleas.”

The tanker session was imbued with a sense of cautious optimism from both panellists and delegates attending the event at Singapore’s iconic Fullerton Hotel.

Van de Bospoort said his bank was bullish on tankers. Kenny Rogers, who heads up IMC’s chemical logistics division which includes 28 tankers, saw a solid year ahead for his sector, which could see the Singapore owner order more vessels.

On the crude side, Wah Kwong’s Huxley said: “I’m with Paddy Rogers (the ceo of Euronav) – go buy some Euronav shares but for God’s sake don’t put a fund together to go and order a load of ships.”

Hatton from FSL was of a similar opinion for product tankers. The sector had been “reasonably resilient” in the past year, but owners must shy away from ordering more vessels, he said. Hatton also observed of the product sector: “Talk of a two-tier market from all the new ecoships has not come to fruition and looks like it never will do.”

The “elephant in the room” on the crude side, according to former broker Huxley was all the shipbuilding capacity suddenly available from cancelled offshore, LNG and boxship contracts. “Will shipbuilders offer very, very low prices for tankers?” he mused, suggesting a $75m VLCC newbuild is not far off.

The sector is still cautious, panellists agreed, as evidenced by there being next to no period charters fixed for three to five years at the moment. This lack of fixing could rein in owners mulling ordering ships however.

For the record, none of the panellists said they would vote for Trump, while moderator Sam Chambers, editor of this site, quipped Trump’s election could be good for cement carriers what with the real estate mogul’s plans for a wall stretching across the border with Mexico.

Tankers formed one of four sessions at Tuesday’s Maritime CEO Forum at the Fullerton Hotel. Reports from the other three sessions can be found here.

Maritime CEO Forum is sponsored by Anglo-Eastern Univan Group, Dualog, DVB Bank, FCM Marine & Energy, Navigate Response, RightShip, Rustibus, Transas, Unimarine Lubricants, Veritas Petroleum Services, V.Ships and Wartsila.

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