Overall confidence levels in the shipping industry rose in the three months ending in August, 2015 to their highest level so far this year, according to the latest Shipping Confidence Survey from international accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens.
In August 2015, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.9 on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). This compares to the 5.3 recorded in May 2015, which equalled the lowest figure recorded in the life of the survey, launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.
Geographically, confidence was up in Asia from 4.9 to 5.8, in Europe from 5.3 to 5.9, and in North America from 6.0 to 6.3.
While some respondents were confident that the shipping markets would improve in line with economic developments, others were more cautious. One said: “The shipping markets have been over-stocked, and there has been far too much interest from non-traditional shipping sources with no real clue how these intricate markets work.
“Once built, the ships are there. The low oil cost means the drive for alternative fuels and cheaper propulsion is not being followed as diligently as one might have expected.”
Another respondent said: “Current market conditions realistically reflect tonnage oversupply in all sectors. Until this corrects itself, global trade patterns will skew supply over demand. Shipping decisions are very often made on sentiment, but current confidence cannot be based on this.”
The number of respondents who expected finance costs to increase over the next 12 months was up by 8%, from 40% to 48%. The shift in sentiment in this regard was most notable in the case of owners (up from 35% to 53%) and charterers (up from 33% to 50%).
Competition, demand trends and finance costs featured as the top three factors cited by respondents as those likely to influence performance most significantly over the coming 12 months.
There was a fall in the number of respondents anticipating higher freight rates in the tanker and container ship sectors, but expectations of improved rates in the dry bulk trades were up on the figures for May 2015.
Richard Greiner, Moore Stephens Partner, Shipping Industry Group, said: “One respondent highlighted a perceived trend towards the so-called bureaucratisation of shipping, with smaller players losing out to their bigger competitors.
“Few would argue that there has ever been a tougher time for the smaller operator than in today’s industry. Yet such businesses can, and do, survive. To do so, they need to identify a niche role in the market, one in which they can add value and provide a level of service superior to that offered by their competitors. Moreover, in common with even the biggest players, they need a sound business plan.
Greiner concluded: “So the long-term outlook for shipping offers encouragement to existing and new investors alike. Those who are not attracted by the longer-term prospects, meanwhile, will doubtless exit the industry, and in the process may help solve some of its problems.”