The biggest rally in iron-ore freight costs since 2009 is prompting shipowners to end the industry’s biggest scrapping program in at least three decades as older vessels bring in more money.
The CHART OF THE DAY shows how rates, in blue, for Capesize ships hauling 160,000 metric tons of iron ore rose to a 34-month high of $42,211 a day on Sept. 25. Scrapping levels are in red. Owners have paid off debt used to buy older vessels, making them cheaper to run, so they won’t opt for scrapping as long as the rally allows them to profit from the ships, according to Erik Nikolai Stavseth, an analyst at Arctic Securities ASA in Oslo.
Chinese investment in rail, buildings and infrastructure will rise 20 percent this year, creating demand for another 135 million tons of steel, Shanghai-based Citic Securities Co. says. That would require 200 million tons of iron ore, used to produce the alloy, enough to fill 180 Capesizes, according to Fearnley Consultants A/S, a research company in Oslo.
Capesize fleet capacity is up 75 percent since 2008, says IHS Maritime, a Coulsdon, England-based maritime researcher.
“Freight rates are expected to return to profitable levels - even for older tonnage,” said Stavseth, whose recommendations on shipping company shares returned 26 percent in the past year. “This will potentially lead to higher net fleet growth.”
World trade in iron ore will grow 6 percent to 1.17 billion tons this year, with China taking two-thirds, according to Clarkson Plc, the biggest shipbroker. Earnings for Capesize carriers sailing to China from Brazil at a $40,000 daily rate assuming a voyage time of 45 days will equate to $1.8 million, spurring owners to keep trading their ships, Stavseth said.