Baltic Dry Index Slides for Sixth Day as Glut of Ships Persists

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity shipping prices, slid for a sixth session as a surplus of vessels drove down rates owners charge to haul cargoes from iron ore to grains.

The gauge slumped 1.3 percent to 866, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London today. Rates declined for a third consecutive day for all four vessel types tracked by the bourse, led by Panamaxes that mostly transport agricultural commodities and coal.

More than 200 vessels, the most ever, were waiting to load Brazilian soybeans at the end of March, according to data from SA Commodities, a Santos-based shipping agent. While the bottleneck curbed vessel supply, there is still a surplus of Panamaxes competing for business, said Jeffrey Landsberg, the New York-based president of Commodore Research & Consultancy, an adviser to ship owners.

“The optimism over South American grain cargoes has been overblown,” Landsberg said by phone today. More Panamaxes will be built this year than in 2012, the only class of dry-commodity shipping where that’s happening, he said.

Daily average charter rates for Panamaxes, which normally carry about 75,000 metric tons of cargo, slid 2.1 percent to $8,850. Capesizes, about twice as big, fell 0.6 percent to $4,246, according to the exchange. Supramaxes hauling about 50,000 tons dropped 0.9 percent to $9,566. Handysizes, the smallest ships in the index, lost 1.5 percent to $7,852.

Demand for vessels was curbed by public holidays in China, according to Peter Norfolk, a London-based analyst at Freight Investor Services Ltd., a broker of shipping and iron-ore swaps. Markets in the nation, the biggest source of demand for cargoes including coal and iron ore, are shut today and tomorrow.

“It’s just very quiet,” Norfolk said. “There is some chartering activity going on, but it just seems subdued.”

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