Odessa container terminal © Arkadiy Luchak

Security consultancy Dryad Global has warned all shipping to leave the Black Sea area around southern Ukraine, but says there is no real threat to shipping, while the broader implications of the invasion are now being analysed.

There are currently three container vessels in the Odessa region, according to VesselsValue AIS data: Cosco-operated 9,400 teu Joseph Schulte; 3,543 teu Bach, operated by Zim and seen already to be leaving the area; and Hansa Limburg, a 1,740 teu vessel operated by Hapag-Lloyd.

According to Hapag-Lloyd, the Hansa Limburg has already left Odessa port and a spokesman added that its Odessa-based staff were all working from home, with offices closed.

“While we do not operate or own ships in the Black Sea, we provide a weekly service [BMX] with a charter ship. The vessel is on its way to Istanbul. We are monitoring developments very closely and are working on alternatives to the routing of our BMX service, which we will announce in due course.”

Dryad Global spokesman Munro Anderson told The Loadstar the company advised all shipping to broadcast their intentions widely over the radio and to “comply with any instructions given by the Russian military”.

He added that the Black Sea region was complex, “but the principal risk is commercial” and, as long as shipping avoids Crimea, southern Ukraine and the Sea of Azov, there should be no problem at this time.

Hamburg’s terminal operator, HHLA, owns and operates a large box facility in Odessa and said, via Twitter: “The port of Odessa was closed today by the Ukrainian authorities, so operations at our terminal have also been suspended. Except for the security staff, all employees are now at home.”

According to Vespucci Maritime founder Lars Jensen, the Ukrainian port, with the facility in Tallinn, Estonia, handled a combined total of 453,000 teu.

In a broader view of the consequences of the Russian incursion, it is understood that oil and gas supplies from Russia will be cut. Although this could lead to a rise in prices, Global Shippers’ Forum director James Hookham was guarded, but suggested inflation would be an issue national governments would be looking at, as well as harsher and broader sanctions.

“I suspect central banks will pause for reflection,” he said, adding that the banks had, during the financial crash of 2008/9 and Covid, supported economies with quantitative easing and low interest rates.

“We were just coming out of the latest round of support, but I think the US Federal Reserve will assess the trauma and may have a rethink to support markets,” said Mr Hookham.

He also warned that harsher sanctions appear likely, but he added governments needed to be clear about what and who is being sanctioned, so that those that do business with Russian shippers and suppliers understand clearly whether they are allowed to trade or not.

“There have been mistakes in the past, particularly with Iran where companies did not realise they were breaking sanctions,” said the GSF.

This broader view was echoed by Vivek Srivastava, senior trade analyst at VesselsValue who wrote: “The outbreak of war in Eastern Ukraine has raised fears about the impact of further sanctions on global energy markets, coupled with the UK prime minister’s announcement today of ‘a massive package of economic sanctions’ to come.”

He added: “Russian exports accounted for 5.2% of global seaborne trade on tankers (oil and refined oil products)  and 6% of global seaborne trade on LNG carriers. Such significant proportions are not readily replaceable from other sources.”

However, only 15.1% of Russian exports were carried on containerships and it is more likely that the import element will impact container shipping more significantly in the longer term.

Former Barclay’s analyst and industry veteran Mark McVicar said there was a real risk that markets could be dampened, with oil now at more than $100 a barrel. He added that central banks were already nervous about inflation and the spike in the price of energy would not have mitigated those concerns.

“Effectively, less demand could mean fewer consumer goods moved in containers or a slower rate of growth [in the global economy], and there is uncertainty about how long this situation will go on, and markets don’t like uncertainty,” said Mr McVicar.

There has been no apparent justification for the predicted “normalisation” of the container shipping markets in the second half of this year, put forward by some lines and, if trade does slow as a result of the Russian action, carriers will look to the 23%-24% of the fleet due to be delivered in 2023.

“Then the question will be, will the lines be disciplined enough to maintain control over capacity in the face of weaker demand?” said Mr Mc Vicar.

Listen to this clip from The Loadstar Podcast on this “super negative development” from Peter Sand, of Xeneta.

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