June 21 - According to the latest Shipping Confidence Survey from Moore Stephens, overall confidence levels in the shipping industry rose slightly in the three months to May 2016.
In May 2016, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.1 on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high).
This is a slight improvement on the 5.0 recorded in February 2016, but is still the second lowest rating in the life of the survey, which was launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.
Confidence on the part of owners was markedly up this time, from 4.8 to 5.7, while charterers were also slightly more optimistic than in February, their rating inching up from 3.9 to 4.0. Confidence among managers and brokers, however, was down, from 5.5 to 5.1 and from 5.1 to 4.3 respectively.
Geographically, confidence was up in Asia, from 4.4 to 5.2, in Europe from 5.1 to 5.2, and in North America from 4.7 to 5.0.
Economic and geopolitical uncertainty was uppermost in the thoughts of many respondents, reported Moore Stephens.
"Overall world economic growth is still not moving concertedly in a positive direction, so that we have what might best be described as a patchy global economic recovery," said one respondent.
Another suggested: "Unless there is a drastic change in geopolitical events, shipping markets will remain in their present condition for another 12 months."
The availability of shipping finance also featured heavily in respondents' comments, with one suggesting that "finance is way too cheap and has caused a massive over-supply of tonnage"; and another implying that financiers have lost confidence in owners.
A surfeit of tonnage and lack of scrapping were also mentioned as market challenges, but some respondents noted that there are opportunities out there for "smart operators".
Moore Stephens partner Richard Greiner concluded: "If there is one thing certain in the current shipping market, it is the level of uncertainty which is pervading all sectors at the moment."
He added: "Many of our respondents continue to express serious misgivings about the extent of overtonnaging, and about the inadequacy of current levels of demolition activity."
Greiner noted that the mood of the survey's respondents was not universally downbeat, however. "A number continued to emphasise the fact that other methods of transportation are invariably not a viable alternative to shipping, while others stressed that innovative operators will always find a way to succeed, including accessing the finance needed to do so."