Shipping never sleeps and 2017 was a year full of activity.
New names and familiar faces made the headlines in a year which ended on a more positive note than it started for many markets.
Below were the most popular articles among readers of TradeWinds.
George Economou’s DryShips spent big in 2017. A string of sale and purchase deals spanning the tanker, dry cargo and LPG markets were backed at first by fundraising alongside the mysterious Kalani Investments. The veil of secrecy was lifted in April when the front page of TradeWinds reveled the Toronto-based Bistricer family – related to New York property mogul David Bistricer – was the force behind the Kalani throne. The drama did not stop there. Some DryShips investors later resisted, launching law suits against the shipowner for some transactions with Kalani. Eventually, ties were cut and DryShips ended up as a major investor in Heidmar instead.
Shipping has a habit of repeating its successes and failures, on average around every seven years, as owners battle for supremacy. “The whole game is a game of pass the parcel,” cycles expect Martin Stopford told TW+ in March. “Your aim is to sell ships to your competitor expensively and then buy them back cheaply when he goes bankrupt.” Economou, Harry Vafias, John Hadjipateras, Trygve Munthe and Svein Moxnes Harfjeld shared their secrets for how to operate in such a volatile environment.The article looked for triggers of the next upturn, with has since showed glimmers of arriving. The dry cargo market has hit multi-year highs in the fourth quarter this year and LNG rates are in a sweeter spot. Product tanker owners now also have a more positive outlook, but crude tankers still face some choppy waters.
In a year packed with consolidation, it was a deal that didn’t happen that provided perhaps the most theater. Fredriksen’s Frontline chased a takeover of Oslo rival DHT Holdings through the first few months of the year. With a string of offers rejected and DHT’s own combination with the BW Group VLCC fleet announced, Frontline took the battle to the court room. The move failed and by the end of the first half Frontline was looking else where, with Gener8 Maritime its reported next target. The discussions were less concrete and reputedly short-lived. Come the end of the year, Gener8 was instead swept up in a share-for-share deal with Euronav.
A string of new brokerages popped up in Athens in a cluster of activity during the fourth quarter. Xclusiv Shipbrokers emerged in early November, with Dimitris Ioannou unveiling Parallax just a few days later.
It was a move by the fifth generation of the Matsas family that caught the most readers of TradeWinds, however. Loukia Matsa, Ioanna Matsa and Marina Doukas took the family into the S&P business as the next step in its 137-year history. Best known for the Loucas G Matsas Salvage & Towage business, the group has been involved in both dry cargo and offshore support vessel ownership and operation in the past.
The year was not without tragedy, with the sinking of the 266,000-dwt Stellar Daisy (built 1993) costing the lives of 24 crew members onboard. The VLOC was carrying a load of iron ore from Brazil to China when the crew issued a distress call reporting that the vessel was taking on water 2,500km from Uruguay’s coast. The disaster led to huge scrutiny about the safety of other converted VLOCs and now the replacement of the ships is well underway. Vale has backed a number of VLOC newbuildings since the Stellar Daisy was lost.
New shipowning ventures were a defining theme of 2017. MPC Container Ships, Navios Maritime Containers and GoodBulk are just some of the names that spring to mind. Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis’s launch of Ivy Shipping in late summer caught the most attention as the Greek shipping dynasty moved back into the market with a vehicle targeting the supramax and panamax sectors. Ivy Shipping is backed by Kassidokostas-Latsis and two major investors and will grow in a different way to the expansion undertaken by Latis vehicle Latsco, which favoured newbuildings in the tanker and gas markets. “We don’t believe newbuildings are the way to go at this juncture,” said Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, “Investment in dry bulk for us is not an end to itself but rather a means to an end,” he added.
Come rain or shine, shipping likes a party. This summer it was Oslo’s turn in the sun, after Posidonia the previous year. While disruption was a major theme of the week, the threat of rain did not stop shipowners, executives and other industry leaders clinking glasses with TradeWinds on board the historic sailing ship Christian Radich. Shipowners including Westie Hoegh, Herbjorn Hansson, Leon Patitsas and Age Remoy climbed on board for the event, which has been a fixture on the Nor-Shipping calendar since the early 1990s. DHT Holdings co-chief executives Trygve Munthe and Svein Moxnes Harfjeld, Clarksons Platou executives Peter Anker and Erik Helberg and Anette Olsen were among those from the Norwegian market to walk the decks. Henning Oldendorff, large delegations from National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) and Oman Shipping, Ridgebury Tankers executive Hew Crooks and Gibsons managing director Nigel Richardson brought an international flavour to the event.
Disproving the mantra that good news is no news this year is Clarksons Platou Securities. Analysts Herman Hildan, Frode Morkedal and John Gandolfo argued in October the industry was looking at the best value opportunity in more than 30 years. Low newbuiding activity, struggling shipyards, low second hand prices and demand growth racing ahead of expectations were behind their headline-grabbing optimism. They were not alone, Scorpio president Robert Bugbee a few weeks later predicted a multi-year upturn in products tankers amid a positive overall view. “In total shipping I can’t remember a time the orderbooks, since 1985, have been in such good shape from the shipowners’ point of view across many sectors of shipping,” he said.
Emanuele Lauro’s Scorpio enjoyed another busy year. Scorpio Tankers bought Navig8 Product Tankers in a $1bn plus move and Scorpio Bulkers was back in growth mode, after sweeping up a suite of ultramaxes from Golden Ocean to launch a fresh round of expansion. It was a private move into the anchor handler and crew boat market, uncovered by TradeWinds in October, which caught the most online attention. “We are definitely looking at building a position,” Lauro said. “Once we reach the critical mass necessary, we will be looking at opening up to either going public, or to capital providers and other avenues.
The LNG news ticker was running hot in 2017. Spot markets sprang into life, Golar LNG’s Hilli Episeyo FLNG unit made it onto the water and Prelude FLNG, was towed into position off the northwest coast of Australia, and CMA CGM added LNG fuelling to the largest boxships ever ordered. SeaOne’s letter of intent with Samsung Heavy Industries for up to 12 articulated tug barges was the surprise favourite package from the TradeWinds LNG file, however. The order could cost more than $1.5bn, SeaOne Holdings president Bruce Hall told us.
Importing and managing the logistics of your precious freight is no easy task. Compliance to U.S. Customs & Border Patrol is essential to your cargo clearing customs. Use a freight forwarder to lower your chances of having shipment delays and to oversee all of your international freight logistics. Contact a customs broker to file your ISF and issue any pre-alerts to avoid penalties and delays, and arrange your ocean freight and imports customs clearance.