Commodity Ship Hired at Zero Cost as Glut Decimates Rates

D/S Norden A/S, Europe’s biggest publicly trading commodity shipping company, hired a Supramax vessel at no cost other than fuel charges, its first such transaction in a quarter century.

The carrier is currently off the Spanish coast, Jens Peter Skaarup, a spokesman for the Hellerup, Denmark-based shipowner, said in an e-mail today. It will haul a cargo of gypsum, used to make plasterboard, to the U.S. East Coast.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity shipping costs, slumped for a 33rd session today to the lowest since August 1986, according to the Baltic Exchange in London. Operators of the global dry-bulk fleet of more than 8,900 ships are accepting unprofitable charters amid a glut of vessels, even as global trade in commodities expands to a record.

Earnings for Supramaxes trading in the Atlantic region “went from bad to worse,” the Baltic Exchange said in a report to members today. “Some owners now talk of parking their tonnage unless there’s an improvement soon.”

The Baltic Dry Index fell 63 percent this year as rents for some voyages plunge to the lowest ever amid record monthly deliveries of new ships, port disruptions caused by bad weather and a week-long holiday in China.

Hire costs for Panamaxes, the largest that can transit the Panama Canal, rose 1.9 percent to $5,509 a day, the first gain since Dec. 19. Capesizes, the biggest iron-ore carriers, slid 1.1 percent to $5,251, extending an 84 percent decline since mid-December. Supramaxes fell for a 47th consecutive day, their longest-ever losing streak, dropping 2 percent to $6,353, a three-year low.

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