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Trading houses return to shipowning

2017 is likely to be viewed in hindsight as the year major trading houses returned to shipowning. A recent report from brokers Alibra Shipping looks at how traders have taken advantage of rising commodity prices in recent months to snap up bargain hulls.

Alibra listed Vitol’s recent order for up to eight 84,000 cu m gas carriers, Mercuria Energy’s VLCC acquisition from DHT in February, Trafigura tying up with China’s Bank of Communications in June to kick off a 32-strong tanker fleet and Gunvor’s decision last month to order two product tankers in partnership with TopShips all as examples of trading houses getting back into shipowning.

As well as rebounding commodity prices, Alibra pointed out that ships bought today are a bargain.

“As a very rough estimate, a tanker order placed today would cost around 20% less than one placed in 2014,” Alibra observed.

A capesize bulker ordered today costs around 30% less than in 2014, Alibra maintained.

“Owning – or co-owning – vessels also gives traders an increased ability to predict, plan and manage the cost of their seaborne logistics and gives them a degree of insulation from the volatility of freight markets,” Alibra concluded.

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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