Tonne mile growth, strong Asian demand and growing chemicals production in the Middle East are all positive factors, say executives from firms including Odfjell and Westfal Larsen in Bergen, and Nordic Tankers in Copenhagen.
The orderbook – at just 6-7% of the existing fleet – is a fraction of the capacity that overshadows most other sectors of the global tanker fleet and, although many chemical carriers are slow-steaming today, some experts believe they may continue to do so even when the market is in better balance.
Nordic Tankers chief executive Tommy Thomsen also notes the potential impact of US shale gas on the chemical sector. Controlling one of the sector’s largest fleets – 130 ships in the range up to 25,000 dwt – he says there are definitely positive signs. “The chemical tanker industry still faces difficult market conditions,” he comments, “but we believe we are at the bottom of the cycle.”
Other competitors in Bergen agree. Odjfell senior vice president Morten Nystad says there are positive signs. After five years of losses in its chemical shipping activities, the company may see black figures again this year, with a boost in output from Middle East sources underpinning stronger long-haul demand.
The company will soon take delivery of the world’s largest chemical carrier – a 75,000 dwt unit currently nearing completion at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is due to join the fleet in June. She is likely to be deployed on long-haul shipments between the Middle East and Asia. Meanwhile, four 46,000 dwt chemical carriers being built at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard costing about $40m each are due for delivery to Odfjell between January and July next year.