In 2017, there were some positive changes in the contracting arena, with ordering in all of the major sectors surpassing 2016 levels. Bulkcarrier contracting increased significantly year-on-year, while ordering at the larger end supported improved newbuild activity in the tanker sector. However, overall contracting was still well below 2015 levels and remained subdued in historical terms.

What Was On The Radar?
In 2017, 902 units of 23.3m CGT were ordered (based on contracts reported up until 1st January), representing an increase of 49% and 79% year-on-year in numerical and CGT terms respectively; moreover newbuild investment increased by 57% year-on-year in value terms to an estimated $58.7bn. However, the increases follow record low contracting in 2016. Compared to 2015, there were 48% and 43% fewer orders in 2017 in numerical and CGT terms respectively.

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A Clear Transmission?
Against a backdrop of improved market conditions, bulker ordering increased by 235% year-on-year in 2017 in CGT terms to reach 286 units of 6.5m CGT and 32.7m dwt. Bulker ordering also compared favourably to 2015 levels, up by 3% and 32% in CGT and dwt terms respectively. In numerical terms, 42% of bulker contracts were for Kamsarmaxes, with 119 units ordered in 2017. 67% of them were placed at Chinese yards, reportedly driven in part by the availability of Nox Tier II compliant units. Backed by CoAs with Brazilian miner Vale, 27 VLOCs of 325,000+ dwt were reported ordered in 2017, 20 of which were placed in Korea, following 31 orders in 2016.

In 2017, 271 tankers of 6.9m CGT and 30.0m dwt were ordered, up by 118% year-on-year in CGT terms. Encouraged by low newbuild prices, some owners invested in VLCCs, which accounted for 50% of 2017 tanker contracts in dwt terms. However, in CGT terms 2017 tanker ordering was 47% down on 2015 levels, remaining weak in historical terms.

Lots Of Noise
In the boxship sector, 108 units of 3.1m CGT and 0.7m TEU were ordered in 2017, a 57% year-on-year increase in CGT terms, but a 71% decline on 2015 levels. Overall, 71% of 2017 boxship orders in numerical terms were in the sub-3,000 TEU sector. A total of 29 units of 8,000+ TEU were also contracted, with 20 units of 22,000 TEU ordered in Korea and China, the largest boxships ever to be contracted.

Elsewhere, 39 gas carriers of 1.6m CGT were ordered in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 74% in CGT terms, while offshore sector contracting remained weak, with only 37 (ship-shaped) units ordered. Contracting in the cruise sector remained firm, with 31 ships of c.80,000 berths ordered in 2017, compared to 34 units of c.61,000 berths in 2016.

So, in 2017 there was a significant improvement in contracting across a range of sectors, such as bulkcarriers and large crude tankers. However, despite an overall year-on-year increase, ordering remained limited, and well below 2015 levels. As 2018 begins, shipyards will be hoping for further improvement, although a return to historically firm contracting levels could still take some time.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News.