Susan Oatway, lead analyst for multipurpose shipping at Drewry, said 2018 is shaping up to be a positive year for the multipurpose and project cargo shipping market.
Based on information provided in Drewry's most recent multipurpose and heavy lift fleet report, Oatway said: "I am more optimistic for this year than last year," adding that "all the fundamentals are there" to spark a recovery in the market.
"As always, it's the competing fleets that overtly affect this sector," said Oatway; a market recovery is very much dependent on rival container and bulk carriers refocusing on their respective core cargo base.
Oatway said that there are approximately 3,210 vessels that are classed as multipurpose, project carriers or premium project carriers, in operation at present. The fleet totals approximately 29.5 million dwt and has an average age of 16 years. Simple multipurpose vessels have an average age of 20-plus years, while the premium carriers (boasting a lifting capacity in excess of 250 tonnes) average just nine years old.
The makeup of the fleet is slowly changing - in 2017 there were no deliveries less that 10,000 dwt.
Newbuild deliveries also continue to fall. 80 percent of those delivered in 2017 are classed as project carriers - with crane capacity between 150-250 tonnes. In 2018, all growth in the market is expected to come from the project carrier fleet.
There was a slight uptick in scrapping, with roughly 500,000 dwt of capacity "beached" in 2017. "We expect this trend to continue and rise slightly in the medium-term," said Oatway.
Drewry also expects dry cargo demand to improve in 2018, with year-on-year growth of three percent over 2017. In 2016, Drewry saw demand growth of two percent over 2015.
However, in that time, the multipurpose share of the market fell, due to competition from other sectors. Looking ahead to 2018 "we expect that share to improve as competition softens."
Drewry expects the mantra of 'everything that can go in a box, will do,' such as low value bulk cargoes, will soften in 2018. "I expect this trend to slow as container lines go back to higher paid volumes."