Wilbur Ross, the billionaire founder of WL Ross & Co., said he intends to add to his shipping investments as slowing growth of the merchant fleet spurs an industry recovery as soon as next year.
Ross was among investors who bought a fleet of 30 tankers hauling gasoline and diesel two years ago in a $900 million transaction. His company also has a majority stake in Navigator Holdings Ltd. (NVIGF), which controls one-third of the world’s mid-sized carriers of liquefied petroleum gas.
“We’re going to do a lot more in shipping even than we have,” New York-based Ross said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” today. “Shipping has a great oversupply of vessels that came from over-ordering a few years back. We think 2014 may be when it turns around.”
Expansion of the merchant fleet will slow to about 3.6 percent next year, the lowest growth since at least 2009, according to data from Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker. There were about 20 percent more vessels than cargoes across the industry in March, the biggest glut since the early 1980s, according to Clarkson.
“We’ve actually been quite happy with our shipping investments so far,” Ross said.
One-year charters for 20,500-cubic-meter semi-refrigerated gas carriers like those operated by Navigator rose 15 percent in the past year to $905,000 a month, within 5 percent of the 2008 record, according to Clarkson data. Spot rates for the largest LPG carriers jumped 47 percent this month to $70.50 a metric ton, the highest since September, according to the Baltic Exchange, the London-based publisher of shipping costs.
Daily earnings for product tankers hauling 37,000 tons of gasoline to the U.S. from Europe, the benchmark route for the type of ship Ross bought in 2011, rose 16 percent this year to $13,647, according to the exchange.
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