The easing in bulkcarrier deliveries and the accelerated pace of demolition in recent years has seen bulkcarrier fleet growth slow from a rapid 17% in 2010 to just over 2% in 2015.
In the short-term, fleet expansion is currently projected to slow further, but with only limited growth expected in dry bulk trade in coming years, can supply growth be brought back in line with expansion in demand?
Stunting The Growth
The depression in the dry bulk market, driven by weak demand and firm supply growth in preceding years, saw bulker owners scrap over 30m dwt in 2015, close to the record of 33m dwt in 2012. Meanwhile, deliveries remained fairly steady y-o-y at 49m dwt, down from 100m dwt in 2012. Estimated ‘non-delivery’ (the percentage of the start year orderbook scheduled for delivery during the year, but not delivered due to ‘slippage’ or cancellation) rose last year to 43%, up from an estimated 36% in 2014, limiting delivery volumes. Overall, these trends saw the pace of fleet growth shrink to 2.4%, the slowest rate since 1999. However, even this slow growth exacerbated oversupply, with seaborne dry bulk trade declining by 0.1% in 2015.
Out With The Not-So-Old
Bulkcarrier demolition is projected to remain firm this year, given the weak outlook for the market. There remains a sizeable volume (62.4m dwt) of bulkcarrier tonnage aged over 20 years, and owners have also shown a willingness to scrap increasingly younger units, with the average age of scrapped bulkers falling from 32 years in 2010 to 25 years in 2015. In the first eight weeks of 2016 alone, 93 units of 8.3m dwt were scrapped, up 77% y-o-y on an annualised basis, and demolition is currently projected to exceed 33m dwt this year.
Deliveries To Dive?
Despite the depressed market conditions, and expectations that slippage and cancellation will continue to significantly affect deliveries, a total of 49m dwt is again expected to be delivered in 2016. However, the more limited ordering volumes seen in 2014-15 have helped the orderbook to decrease, reaching an 8-year low in February 2016, and deliveries are now expected to drop in 2017 to 35m dwt.
How Low Do We Need To Go?
Overall, the gap between bulkcarrier deliveries and demolition is currently expected to remain fairly steady this year, with fleet growth projected to reach 2.0%. However, with dry bulk trade growth expected to be very limited at 0.3% in 2016, to restrict fleet expansion to this pace would require the equivalent of either deliveries easing to 36m dwt this year, 27% lower than the current projection, or demolition surging to 47m dwt, 40% higher than the current projection.
So, unless there are dramatic shifts in supply side trends in the rest of this year, it will be difficult to limit the pace of fleet expansion in 2016 to a level closer to dry bulk trade growth. There seems more scope for this in 2017, given current expectations for expansion of only 0.7% in the fleet. However, with dry bulk trade underperforming, even such a slow pace of fleet growth expected in the short-term might struggle to restore balance.