Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Arrrgh me hearties....

(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton’s blog-The Shipping Bloke)

Piracy has been in the news big time lately however a lot of shippers probably don’t realise it is virtually a daily occurrence somewhere in the world and how it can impact them. It is probably one of the oldest industries there is right behind another industry well known to seamen.

This live and interactive piracy map compiled by the International Chamber of Commerce clearly shows Somalian Pirates have been by far the most active and most daring in recent times. It seems every type of vessel is fair game from cargo ships through to luxury cruise liners. They are going further and further offshore in search of their targets to extract ransom money, pillage cargo and rob and threaten passengers. Governments from around the world have deployed their naval fleets to help defend shipping in this region. Despite this, the reality is that ship owners are virtually forced to have to hand over ransom money in return for the safety of their crew, passengers, cargo and vessels. So the pirates get their payoff ranging and live to do it all again. What is a typical pirates opening ask in ransom for a vessel? US$25 million!!!


Piracy occurs frequently in other parts of the world. The Strait of Malacca between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia has been notorious. Up until 2005 it was actually classified as a war zone by Lloyds of London. I have been on many ships where the Masters have told me about the night attacks they have endured in this region and still do. Once again a naval response was required to get on top of the situation.

So what does it mean for you if your cargo is on board a ship that is pirated? Firstly I hope you ALWAYS have marine insurance cover under Marine Institute Cargo Clauses (A) . This is the maximum level of cover available and includes piracy risks; however it only covers risks to your cargo of physical damage, theft or destruction. Ransom monies are precluded and these are normally the concern of the ship owner. If your cargo is delayed but not damaged, then there is no relief from underwriters and there is no claim possible for damages against the ship owner. Maritime law actually defines you - as a shipper with cargo on board - as a joint venturer with the ship owner. So in other words, you share all the risks of the voyage and also delays with them.

Desperate times are leading to increasingly desperate attacks on shipping around the world, so make sure you are insured and perhaps review your policy to ensure that it reflects Cargo Clauses (A). Do it now!

All for now,

Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Shipping at 1980's freight rates...

(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton’s blog-The Shipping Bloke)

The Baltic Dry Index(BDI) is the exchange that tracks shipping freight rates applying to dry commodities worldwide. In 2008 it peaked at 11793(remember when there was no space and freight rates were skyrocketing?) and then it fell to a low this year of just 772. It has recently risen to about 3750 which is being attributed mainly to imports into China as they stockpile commodities. More on the BDI including a live chart.

The reality for shipping lines right now is that nearly all of them are reporting massive losses, cancelling services and voyages, mothballing fleets and scrapping older ships as world demand for ocean freight is still incredibly low.

One RoRo carrier has so many idle ships that they told me that they are using their ships as floating carparks at sea for some of their car manufacturing customers. This way the shipping line at least gets some revenue on an otherwise idle ship and the automaker finds more storage capacity for the huge inventory they are wrestling with onshore. The container carriers are in a worse situation. Some of them are literally charging only for the fuel they burn just to keep their vessels moving. Anybody that has regularly flown into Singapore knows there are always plenty of ships off the coast. It is one of the largest transhipment and bunkering(refuelling) ports in the world that’s why they gather there. When I flew in there about three weeks ago I was shocked to see more vessels than ever and container ships rafted up, empty, in inlets in groups of four.

Consequently we are seeing desperate freight rates being quoted by many carriers. There is no way that the rate levels in the market right now are sustainable. Many carriers are now dealing with rising fuel prices again and have high debt levels associated with the vessels they own. The new rules of the GFC of “little or no debt” leave them in a vulnerable position with their financiers. Undoubtedly we will see many shipping lines start to falter. I remember too well trying to assist clients with getting their trapped cargo off some Russian ships that had been detained in port due to unpaid port charges back in late 80’s. Sadly I think we will soon see this again.

In the meantime even though the BDI has started to trend up, the freight rates in the market are pretty much at 1980's levels. I think we have recently seen the bottom of the ocean freight market but we are still not far from it. Therefore it’s a good time to look around and make sure that you are getting the benefit of some the lower rates on offer and perhaps explore locking in with a contract if you can.

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke

Monday, 22 June 2009

Personal invitation to subscribe to "The Shipping Blokes Blog"

You have received this invitation because you are a personal friend, colleague, client or supplier to my business, Skelton Sherborne - “The Choice of Heavy Industry.”

A major overhaul of Skelton Sherborne’s and my personal website has just been completed. There are numerous new resources that are relevant to heavy equipment shipping decision makers and it’s been re-engineered so it is quicker and more intuitive to navigate than ever before. We also have some new initiatives about the way we communicate with everybody and how we can improve your overall shipping experience.

One of these initiatives is the launch of this Blog. This blog isn’t about Skelton Sherborne or me. It’s about you and making sure you are kept up to date with interesting, informative and thought provoking ideas that are relevant to anybody moving heavy equipment around the world. It also seeks to provide a platform for shippers of heavy machinery to connect and provide comments that our peers can see and increase awareness of issues that are affecting us. I promise to take these comments on board and try and champion whatever change I can to make shipping easier, more cost effective and safer, wherever possible.

If all this sounds interesting to you, then I hope you will
subscribe to The Shipping Bloke's Blog by Email.

The first Shipping Bloke’s Blog will be posted later this week and I hope you will find it interesting reading.

Kind regards
Brad Skelton...The Shipping Bloke.