April 2 - Following a tough 2013 the multipurpose shipping sector looks set to bounce back this year, according to Drewry Maritime Research's latest Multipurpose Shipping Market Review and Forecaster report. However, the project cargo market faces an uphi

The report states that while cargo demand has steadily risen since 2009 the multipurpose sector's share has eroded; Drewry Maritime Research says that 2013 was a worse year for ship owners in the multipurpose sector than in the recession hit 2009 - its market share dropped to just 8 percent of dry cargo.

The biggest growth in 2013 volumes came from minor bulk shipments, consisting primarily of steel and forest products. Global steel production grew 5 percent year-on-year in 2013 to 1.6 billion tonnes. Some major exporters including South Korea, the EU, and the USA reported decreased exports over 2012, but China and Taiwan continued to show strong growth (18 and 9 percent respectively), contributing to an expansion in overall global traffic

By contrast demand for general cargo, which includes project cargoes, dropped over 30 percent. Drewry Maritime Research says this was a result of increased competition from other shipping sectors and a slowdown in the project market. It estimates that project cargo volumes fell by almost 15 percent over the year, and the outlook for the project cargo market is uncertain. While the expectation for 2014 remains subdued, there are signs that the sector should begin to pick up further volumes towards the end of the year and grow in 2015/2016.

Competition from other shipping sectors will continue to eat away at the multipurpose sector's market share, although it is forecast to continue to grow at 5 percent annually for the coming years, says Drewry.

Susan Oatway, senior consultant at Drewry Maritime Research, said: "We continue to be concerned about competition from container lines, particularly for the project carriers; any delay in the recovery of that sector will also delay recovery in this one.

"Meanwhile the multipurpose vessel order book is very manageable and as long as newbuildings have a unique quality - whether that is eco-friendly engines or extraordinary lift capacity - there is still space to accommodate them. This means that Drewry's forecast does provide some room for optimism for owners. Demand is expected to continue to grow and has the potential to deliver significantly increased volumes."

Further information regarding the future prospects of the multipurpose shipping sector can be found in a recently published Drewry white paper that is available here.  http://www.drewry.co.uk/news.php?id=266