Freight rates for capesize bulk carriers could drift lower next week as Brazilâ€™s Samarco iron ore mine disaster and uncertain ore demand from China weigh on cargo volumes, brokers said.
That comes as capesize charter rates from Brazil to China on Wednesday hit their lowest level since December 2008.
â€œIâ€™m afraid things could get even worse in the short term,â€ said Ralph Leszczynski, head of research in Singapore at ship broking house Banchero Costa (Bancosta).
â€œSentiment about Chinese demand, by far the largest importer of iron ore, is just terrible at the moment,â€ he said.
The disaster at the Samarco iron ore mine on Nov. 5, where dams holding back waste material collapsed flooding two states and killing at least 11 people, could reduce Brazilian iron ore exports, brokers said.
â€œAbout 3.5 million tonnes may be cut from iron ore exports in December (as a result of the disaster),â€ said a Singapore-based capesize ship broker.
Ships that were chartered to load cargo had their fixtures cancelled and have flooded back into the market, worsening the ship supply glut, the Singapore broker said.
â€œThe capesize market is not looking pretty at all,â€ he added.
â€œAny shortfall in exports from Brazil to Asia is likely to be met by increased exports by Australian iron ore producers such as Rio Tinto (L:RIO) RIO.AX and BHP Billiton (L:BLT) BHP.AX rather than other South American or Scandinavian miners,â€ said Konstantinos Papazoglou, research analyst at Bancosta.
â€œThis will reduce tonne-mile demand, creating more shipping capacity, putting more pressure on freight rates.â€
Charter rates for the Western Australia-China route .BAWB slipped to $4.21 per tonne on Wednesday, down from $4.71 per tonne a week ago, the lowest since Feb. 3, 2015.
Rates for the Brazil-China route .BATB dropped to $8.15 per tonne on Wednesday, the lowest since Dec. 11, 2008, against $9.63 per tonne the same day last week.
Some ship owners are now idling ships rather than fix at current rate levels, which are below operating costs, the Singapore broker said.
Panamax rates for a north Pacific round-trip voyage fell to $3,155 per day, the lowest since Jan. 28, 2009, on Wednesday, down from $3,783 per day last week.
â€œDespite fair activity, there is no immediate sign of any recovery in any corner of the panamax market,â€ said Norwegian ship broker Fearnley in a note on Wednesday.
Freight rates for smaller supramax vessels have slipped to around $4,000 per day for a Pacific round-trip voyage, Fearnley said.
The Baltic Exchangeâ€™s main sea freight index .BADI fell to 519 on Wednesday, down from 599 the same day last week.