Dry Cargo

Surging coal demand powers dry bulk to highly profitable year

Analysts at Braemar ACM have run the rule over the year in dry bulk, where earnings hit highs not experienced for 13 years, with soaring demand for all manner of commodities.

Key findings include the statistic that the capesize segment saw the biggest fleet growth this year, up 3.5% year-to-date, largely thanks to an above average series of newcastlemax deliveries.

In panamaxes, Braemar ACM analysts conceded their surprise at how much support has come from coal this year, accounting for 43% of demand growth over the first 10 months of 2021, driven by China’s energy shortages plus the shake-up to trade flows resulting from China’s ban on Australian coal.

Within the supramax market, steel trades have been particularly supportive of this segment, making up more than half of the year-on-year increase in employment so far in 2021.

“In terms of tonnes moved, trade of these goods on supras has jumped by 30% year-on-year so far in 2021 as some countries have been unable to meet rapidly increasing demand with local production. Because of the shake-up to trade patterns that this has caused, employment generated by these voyages has increased disproportionately, soaring by 38% year-on-year,” the dry bulk annual review stated.

In second place, fertilisers have driven 30% of the demand growth for supras so far this year, again backed by local production shortfalls, on top of a long term trend of growing fertiliser trade driven by established grain producers consistently expanding crop sizes.

Supramaxes also have received significant support from other industrial bulks so far this year. Copper concentrate trade has surged by 20% year-on-year and 14% versus 2019 as a surge in copper prices has encouraged more smelting activity.

Supramax capacity has grown by 2.9% in 2021 to just over 200m dwt.

The handy fleet, meanwhile, has continued to grow at the slowest pace relative to the other sizes – the fleet has grown by just 1.5%, crossing the 90m dwt mark.

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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