Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

What will 2015 hold for the shipping industry?

What will 2015 hold for the shipping industry?
As we settle back into work on the second day of the New Year Seatrade Global dusts off its crystal ball and takes a look at what 2015 may hold in store for the shipping industry.

The first change of 2015 happened at the stroke of midnight on 1 January when 0.1% sulphur limits for bunker fuel came into force in the North Europe, Baltic and North American Emission Control Areas (ECAs). The move will cause some operational issues for owners and there have been warnings of increased engine failures, as has been seen in California where the regulation is already in place. In North Europe and the Baltic enforcement will be watched keenly it is seen as key to ensuring a level playing field.

Also on the regulatory front 2015 should see the ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention with it coming into force the following year. Meanwhile IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu has already put passenger ferry safety high on the agenda for the coming year.

An unexpected event coming into 2015 was the crude oil price having fallen to $53 per barrel. This is good news for shipowners across the board in terms of cheaper bunker fuel prices.

It has had a particularly positive impact on the tanker market, with VLCCs closing in on the $100,000 a day level at the end of 2014 and delivering the best average rates across the year since 2010. A continued period of low oil prices would be good news for tanker owners in 2015 driving up demand and potentially heralding a much needed year of profitable rates.

For container shipping the drop in the bunker price will be especially welcome, and it remains to be seen if slow steaming will remain the order of the day. The coming year is marked by two other factors – the ultra large containership and the mega-alliance.

The rapid growth in size of vessels is set to continue with MSC Oscar to take the crown as the world’s largest boxship at 19,224 teu when it is launched this month. However, it could yet be trumped UASC’s vessels under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries according to Alphaliner.

On the alliance front this month is set to see the roll out of 2M and Oceans Three joining the existing CKYHE and G6 alliances to dominate the main east – west trades. Whether these arrangements will enable lines to improve profitability or simply erode rates further will watched keenly in the industry.

Dry bulk is facing a less than rosy picture after the much expected rally in the second half of 2014 largely failed to materialise and the Baltic Dry Index closed on 24 December at just 782 points, well below the break even point. Overcapacity continues to dog the sector and in telling sign for might lie ahead in mid-December the aggressively expanding Scorpio Bulkers converted six capesize newbuildings contracts into LR2 product tankers.

A sector the lower oil price will not be good for is the one that has been the darling in recent years – offshore marine. At $53 per barrel E&P spending by oil companies is bound to take a hit especially for more marginal field developments. There have already been warnings at the North Sea oil industry is close to collapse and warnings of waves of job losses. Meanwhile in the US Excelerate Energy's plans for a floating LNG export plant in Lavaca Bay, Texas have been put on hold.

This is not good news for the shipyard sector, which in recent years has put a strong emphasis on offshore as conventional shipbuilding orders slumped. The coming year can be expected to see a continued restructuring of the Chinese shipbuilding sector where the major yards are set to dominate. Japan has been the surprise success story in shipbuilding over the last year, but it has been heavily reliant on eco-design bulkers, which could see lower demand given current dry bulk market conditions.

As events unfurl in 2015 in maritime and shipping be sure to read about them on Seatrade Global.