The cost to hire capesize vessels climbed to a 10-month high as rising imports of iron ore to China boosted demand for the ships.
Monthly iron-ore shipments to China, the largest consumer of the material, will average 60 million metric tons from September through December, UBS AG said in a report dated yesterday. That would exceed the record 59 million tons imported in the first quarter of 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Daily rents for the fleet of 1,297 capesize vessels that haul iron ore and coal advanced 1 percent to $31,329 a day, the highest since Nov. 25, according to the London-based Baltic Exchange. The exchange provides freight costs on more than 50 maritime routes. Rates have more than tripled since Aug. 1.
Iron ore imports to China are expected to slow in the next few months as the country’s growth moderates, steel prices fall and production declines, RS Platou AS, an Oslo-based investment bank, said in a weekly report e-mailed today.
“That said, a steep decline in iron ore prices could see sustained imports of iron ore despite easing demand,” the bank said.
Iron ore, coking coal and steel products account for 51 percent of dry-bulk seaborne trade, estimated at 3.56 billion tons for 2011, according to Germany’s DVB Bank SE, which specializes in transportation lending. An estimated 63 percent of the 1-billion tons of ore shipped by sea this year will go to China, according to UBS.
Since early August imported iron ore has been cheaper to buy than ore mined in China, supporting shipping hire costs, Omar Nokta, a New York-based shipping analyst at Dahlman Rose & Co., said in an e-mailed response to questions. That’s only happened three or four times since 2008, he said.
Prices in China for the imported steel-making ingredient declined 8 percent this month, tempting buyers to delay purchases until prices fall even more, Plamen Natzkoff, a freight, iron ore and coal trader at London-based Ronly Holdings Ltd. said.
“The strength of demand is not what’s driving the volume of shipments, it’s the availability of the material that is driving the volume,” Natzkoff said by phone. Miners in Australia and Brazil expanded production in the last two or three months, sending prices lower, he said.
Chinese mines produced the equivalent of 315 million tons of iron ore of 63 percent iron content, while the country imported 619 million tons in 2010, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in a report published in July.
The Baltic Dry Index, a broader measure of commodity shipping costs, advanced 0.8 percent to 2,173 points, the highest since Dec. 7. Shipping rates rose for all four vessel types that the Baltic Dry Index tracks. Panamaxes, the largest to navigate the Panama Canal, gained 1.1 percent to $16,702 a day. Smaller supramaxes rose 0.7 percent to $16,671 and handysizes climbed 0.4 percent to $11,911.