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MACRO MACCHIATO: Wuhan Coronavirus

The Wuhan Coronavirus and China’s nationwide public health emergency have caused a flurry of speculation about how the shipping markets could be affected. P&I Clubs have issued circulars about what happens when ports are closed. Banks have estimated the hit to global commodity consumption. Seaports and airports around the world have set up fever checkpoints to screen incoming passengers. I’m reminded of the SARS panic of 2003. I was working at HSBC in London back when SARS happened. The message from colleagues in China back then was a bit of a mantra at HSBC - "Remain Deadly Calm at All Times." Back in 2003, China was a much smaller single influence on the global economy and on shipping, th

A nuclear sub with a recycling bin

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 the hull, possibly Mewis ducts, a variable pitch propeller or a propeller boss. It may have aerodynamic topsides including bridge wings and a swept accommodation block. We might go further in new designs, with Flettner rotors or rigid sails on the deck, or solar panels

The World on Fire: Good News for Bulk Carriers?

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 bush fires are nothing like as big as those in South East Asia or Africa or even the Latin American rainforests. To keep global warming to the 2.0 C limit agreed in Paris, we have to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, as is now clear, and especially off coal. The world cance

Sanctions and the Tanker Freight Market

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 oil. Moreover, while Iran’s oil exports are officially constrained, higher oil prices would only enrich Iran’s regional enemies. Mischief in the Straits of Hormuz can’t be ruled out as there has been plenty of it in recent years and months and we saw what that did to t

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