The latest shipping confidence survey of think tank Moore Stephens shows that in the three-month period to February 2014, shipping stakeholders, including ship owners, charterers, managers, and brokers, think freight rates look set to improve or maintain existing levels over the next months.
In the container ship sector, more respondents are very optimistic about freight prices increasing, expecting rates to rise over the coming 12 months, the survey results indicated.
The mood of improving confidence evident in many of the responses to the survey was tempered by an awareness of the difficulties which the industry still faces.
The poll outcome showed that the threat posed by over-tonnaging has eased, although a number of respondents still believe the surfeit of ships could impact on the fortunes of the market.
The likelihood of respondents making a major investment or significant development over the next 12 months was unchanged from the previous survey. A number of respondents referred to “niche” opportunities as areas for possible expansion.
Demand trends, competition, and finance costs once again featured as the top three factors cited by respondents overall as those likely to influence performance most significantly over the coming 12 months.
A number of respondents also referred to the rising cost of fuel as a significant performance-affecting factor.
“Six years is a long time in shipping. Indeed, based on empirical evidence, it is long enough to qualify as a cycle in what is an historically cyclical industry,” Moore Stephens shipping partner Richard Greiner says.
“It is perhaps too soon to say that we have reached the end of the most recent downward cycle, but it seems that the worst may be over. This latest survey finds confidence in shipping at its highest level since 2008, with genuine prospects for further improvement over the next twelve-to-eighteen months.”
Greiner said the outlook for the box ship sector was brighter than at any time in recent memory, as fears about over-tonnaging have been eased by increased scrapping and by a more pragmatic approach to business expansion.
“Despite continuing difficulties in certain parts of the world, some of the volatility has been taken out of the global economic and political crises which have characterized the passage of the past few years. That is good for trade and good for shipping,” he concluded.