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Shipping Markets to Struggle for Two More Years, Platou Says

The container and tanker shipping markets will struggle for another two years amid a glut of crude vessels and slowing global economic growth, according to the head of RS Platou ASA, Norway’s biggest shipbroker.

“In crude tankers and container shipping it’s going to take 2013 to work through the oversupply, but then the upside could be good,” Peter Anker, chief executive officer at the Oslo-based broker said in a Jan. 16 interview at the company’s headquarters. “The tanker market is a dark sea and container shipping looks very unpromising.”


Orders for new ships will fall 10 percent this year as banks curb financing amid a global vessel glut that has weighed on prices, reduced demand, spurred cancellations and delays in construction, Deutsche Bank AG has said. Orders will plunge 44 percent for container ships and 11 percent for tankers, the German bank said in a Jan. 11 report.


The slump will probably lead to increased combinations in the industry, Anker said. “I expect to see a lot of consolidation and restructuring in shipping in general this year, especially in the tanker market, where the outlook is still very challenging,” he said.


Shipping billionaire John Fredriksen’s Frontline Ltd ., the world’s biggest operator of the largest crude tankers, earlier this month completed a restructuring as it sold vessels, pared commitments for new ships and eliminated its bank debt to tackle a shipping market slump. Torm A/S, a Danish tanker and bulk shipping company, fell the most in seven weeks on Jan. 13 after Oslo-based Finansavisen reported that Nordea Bank AB had tried to find a buyer for the company.


‘Still Strong’
Not all shipping markets are struggling, with the liquefied natural gas segment “still strong” and the dry cargo market “looks promising going into 2013,” Anker said.


Demand for LNG, liquefied by freezing gas, is rising as nations from the U.K. to South Korea curb pollution. Gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal. Global LNG demand may grow 7.5 percent this year, led by Japan, China and India, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.


Total demand for dry-bulk cargoes, which include iron ore and grain, will rise 3 percent this year, slowing from 5 percent last year, according to London-based Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker. Iron ore is the second-biggest commodity cargo after crude oil.


Should oil prices remain at $100 plus before the end of 2012, ultra-deepwater rigs day rates could reach $600,000 for three-year contracts this year, Anker said. Eighteen new ultra deepwater rigs will be delivered this year, of which 12 have contracts, while another four units are “rumored” to have been fixed on long-term contracts, Platou estimates.


The shipbroker is still seeking to increase its staff to 450 to 500 people by the end of this year. While Platou said in September last year that the earliest it would reconsider doing an initial public offering would be in the second quarter of this year, it is still waiting for markets to improve.


“We have to consider the market and markets are not open right now,” Anker said, without providing further details, when asked whether Platou maintained its listing target.

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