Moore Stephens gets out the crystal ball

crystal ballJANUARY 7, 2013 — International accountant and shipping consultant Moore Stephens predicts that banks will exert more control over the shipping industry in 2013. It also expects vessel values to fall further, and the cost of regulatory compliance to increase.

Moore Stephens partner Julian Wilkinson says, "For shipping in 2012, it was not so much a case of 'Crisis, What Crisis?' as 'Crisis, Which Crisis?' This year will be equally challenging.  Operating costs are going to go up. Like a commuter facing another increase in rail fares, and no extra money coming in, shipping will most likely have to absorb the costs of more expensive fuel, more costly labor, and dearer raw materials on the back of declining freight income. Even Mr Micawber, the Dickens character who always believed that something would turn up, would have taken one look at the shipping industry's prospects for 2013 and cried, 'I'm off!'  

"In 2013, the banks will exert more control over the shipping industry as debt-to-equity ratios deteriorate. Restructuring, deferred payment, impairment and provision have become common coinage in shipping. Openness and the avoidance of unnecessary delay will be key elements to successful financial restructuring. Even if there really are cash-rich banks in China prepared to underwrite shipping deals, nobody is waiting for them to start lending before planning their next move.

"This year will see continued efforts to accelerate scrapping, which is only made more attractive by the approach of expensive classification special survey deadlines. Despite record scrapping levels in the past twelve months, there still exists a considerable gap between the volume of newbuilding deliveries coming onto the market and both the amount of tonnage scrapped and the availability of suitable demolition facilities. Newbuilding deliveries have been running at record levels for three years. One major operator said recently, 'Global tonnage oversupply is irrelevant.' It isn't, but the fact remains that now is a good time to build eco-friendly ships at reasonable prices for which there will be strong demand in the future.

"Expect vessel values to fall further in 2013, last year having closed with a VLCC selling for the lowest price since the mid-90s. The danger is that each successive fall creates a new benchmark. Expect also further increases in the cost of regulatory compliance. That will have to include planning for the BWM convention. Ballast water is not sexy, but it is expensive. Once the percentage of worldwide tonnage is met in the near future, the convention will enter force twelve months thereafter. Owners need to be thinking now about where the money for retrofitting – and it is a lot of money – is coming from.

"Remarkably, the Moore Stephens Shipping Confidence Survey shows that the industry closed 2012 more confident than it ended 2011. Now remains a good time to buy for those with cash and a following wind. New investors, or existing stakeholders embarking on new projects, will be putting money into a leaner and greener industry than the one which was making good money before the economic gloom kicked in."

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