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January 20, 2020

Last week I wrote about the ongoing growth in global coal demand even as a number of governments attempt to start down the path of decarbonisation. I was thinking further about it over the week, in particular the relationship between ships and their cargoes.

Consider a modern Capesize bulk carrier. It may have a number of hydrodynamic and aerodynamic forms to help it sail more efficiently – a bulbous bow, low-friction paint on...

January 13, 2020

Millions of virtue-signalling, eco-woke words have been written about the Australian bush fires and how they are a signal for the climate change the world is not only facing but currently undergoing. But as we’ve reported here before and as is plain to everyone, it’s not yet enough to stop humanity burning fossil fuels, only to slow down the growth in their use. And, as this global map of fires from NASA shows, Australia’s bus...

January 6, 2020

The US Middle East policy of shoot first and explain afterwards continues to bear fruit. The assassination of Iran’s military commander Qassem Suleimani kicked off 2020 with a ratcheting-up of the arm-wrestle between the US and Iran. Pundits have predicted an oil price spike but this has yet to be realised and my guess is that it won’t be Iran’s priority to increase oil prices as the US is no longer dependent on Middle Eastern...

December 23, 2019

I started 2019 with a research note about The Asian Century, concluding that within ten years we would all be in the Belt and Road Initiative, whether we liked it or not.  Not a year later, the Belt buckle is straining while the Road is longer with many more winding turns than the Chinese ever expected. 

The pushback started before 2019 of course, but it has intensified this year. And the focus hasn't been only on China's...

December 16, 2019

The US and China announced their Phase One trade deal on Friday, though it has not yet been signed by either side. The deal reduces some US tariffs on goods it imports from China while increasing Chinese purchases of US agricultural products and energy. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told media on Sunday that, while there will still be some ‘routine scrubs’ to the text of the deal, the deal is “totally done, absolut...

December 9, 2019

On Friday China announced that it would waive import tariffs for some soybeans and pork shipments from the US. It was promoted as a goodwill gesture but is clearly self-interested. China’s swine herd has been devastated by African Swine Fever, so China needs to import protein. Already in the first nine months of this year, US exports of hogs to China and Hong Kong were up 47% despite higher costs (data from China customs). Chi...

December 2, 2019

I’ve been writing a course on the evolution of the Chinese shipping industry over the last 40 years and its likely trajectory over the next 20 years, to be hosted by Lloyd’s Maritime Academy. It starts this week in case you’re interested. And if it tickles your fancy, here’s a webinar introducing the subject. Anyway, it’s impossible to write about such matters without considering the Belt and Road Initiative; a sneaky preview...

November 25, 2019

One of the more depressing charts I have seen shows a global decline in clean energy investment for 2018 with a lower prognosis for 2019. The chart, prepared by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and reported in London’s Financial Times newspaper, shows a drop in 2018 investment to below USD 300 Bn. Furthermore if 1H19 data are annualised, there could be further fall to a little over USD 250 Bn this year, a level not seen since 2013...

November 18, 2019

The IMO 2020 deadline is coming ever closer.  Prices for 0.5% sulphur content fuel are becoming more readily available. Data from Refinitiv shows that the average price of 0.5% sulphur fuel oil at the four main bunkering ports is USD 536, some USD 255 more than the average price for old-time 3.5% sulphur fuel oil  - or a premium of 91%, if you prefer. 

At  these sorts of prices, fitting a scrubber makes economic sense...

November 11, 2019

2019 looks like it may go out with a bang and a whimper. Around the world significant political events are afoot, giving us the bang. Many of these political events are depressing shipping demand, giving us the whimper. 

Starting with the US is a no-brainer. As the Democrat-controlled House is developing its case for impeachment, those elements of the media opposed to Trump clothe each new revelation in neon indignation. But...

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