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If market fundamentals continue to dampen oil prices, mid-sized ocean carriers such as MOL, OOCL and CSCL could improve their bottom line by $250-$300m next year, according to one industry veteran.
Containership owner Seaspan’s chief executive, Gerry Wang, said he expected 2015 to be “healthier” as a consequence of the significant fall in bunker costs, which account for 30%-45% of ocean carriers’ operating costs.
Speaking during his company’s third-quarter results presentation yesterday, Mr Wang also claimed that some slow-steaming would be “put aside” because of a bunker price decline to around $450 per tonne from the $600 for IFO 380 in the summer.
This could also benefit some older, less economical ships, which will come back into the equation when vessels are being considered for a particular route.
Seaspan’s fleet of 76 vessels ranges in size from 2,500teu to 13,100teu, and its business plan is centred on long-term chartering to ocean carriers at fixed daily hire rates. Clients include Hapag-Lloyd, COSCON, CSCL, MOL and MSC
The firm has also just concluded an agreement to charter four newbuild 10,000teu ‘SAVER’ vessels to Maersk Line. Although only fixed for a five years – against Seaspan’s preferred 9-10 year period –Mr Wang regards it as good deal, considering the Danish carrier’s outstanding creditworthiness which benefits Seaspan in terms of newbuild financing.
Already the market leader in this field, Mr Wang said that NYSE-listed Seaspan’s target was to reach 120-130 vessels providing an annual turnover of $10bn.
According to data from VesselsValue.com, the Seaspan fleet, with its total capacity of 477,000teu, is worth $2.8bn. It has 25 vessels, 290,000teu capacity, on order which will take its fleet size over the 100-vessel mark – significantly making it the third-largest containership owner in the world, after Maersk and MSC.
And Mr Wang reiterated his interest in ordering even bigger vessels.
“It is no secret that we are seriously looking at 18,000-20,000teu ships,” he said, adding that chief executive-level meetings were underway with several carriers and shipyards.
He believes carrier programmes to upgrade their fleets to larger tonnage are “unstoppable” – not least because of pressure from new environmental regulations – which is “great news for Seaspan” as the major carriers “always invite us to the table” as their “outsourcing partner”, he said.
Port congestion may also be “good news” for Seaspan, on the basis that it means carriers need more ships. He revealed that during his discussions with senior ocean carrier executives, port congestion in the US, Europe and Asia was always a hot topic.
Looking ahead, Mr Wang expects global demand to be at a healthy 5% in 2015, with the US pick-up accelerating to 6-7%, and he is “not so sure” that the feared contraction in Europe will impact demand.
During the third quarter, Seaspan’s charter hire revenue was $186m against ship operating costs of $42m, which, after other deductions, left a net profit of $38m.
Two 10,000teu vessels were received by Seaspan during the period, which are now on eight-year fixed-term charters with MOL.
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