World seaborne dry bulk trade still looks set to achieve a healthy growth rate of about 4% during 2014 as a whole. Commodity imports into many countries are expected to increase, assisted by China’s positive contribution. A large part of the extra trade volume this year probably will be seen in the iron ore and coal sectors, together comprising more than half of the dry bulk total.
Signs point to global economic activity gaining momentum. Global GDP growth could edge upwards to 3.4% this year, from 3.2% last year and improve more noticeably in 2015, according to a recent (end July) IMF report. Demand for the products of various industries importing dry bulk commodities will benefit from this pattern.
In 2014 world seaborne iron ore trade could grow strongly by about 9%, a rise of 105mt (million tonnes), to reach 1,315mt, as shown by table 1. Although most of the incremental volume probably will be comprised of Asia’s additional imports, other countries could contribute significant extra quantities. Assumptions about key influences shaping Chinese purchases remain critical.
Another very large rise in China’s imports of about 11%, raising the total to 910mt this year, is incorporated in the overall iron ore trade forecast shown. An increasing proportion of ore obtained from foreign suppliers, displacing supplies from Chinese domestic mines, supports the continued expansion. Among other importers including European countries, Japan and South Korea, higher volumes are envisaged.
The outlook for coal trade during 2014 is positive as well, in both steam and coking coal sectors. Three-quarters of the total is steam coal, seaborne movements of which are still benefiting from growing power station usage of imports in numerous countries. Volumes traded in the coking coal segment are reflecting higher steel production at blast furnace mills in many areas.
Overall world seaborne coal trade growth of about 40mt or 3% this year is shown in the table, raising the annual volume to 1,220mt. Most of the extra quantity could be steam coal. The greatest reinforcing influence seems likely to be higher imports into Asian countries, especially India. Earlier indications suggested another large rise in China, but there is now more uncertainty.
A predicted 5% growth rate for global seaborne grain trade (including wheat, coarse grains and soyabeans) in 2014, raising the annual total by 17mt to 365mt, mainly reflects a very strong first half. Prospects for the second half point to weakness emerging. Grain trade forecasts are partly speculative, because it is difficult to predict weather patterns which will determine both domestic harvests in importing countries and output in exporting regions.
Figures based on the conventional crop year, used in grain trade statistics, show a higher percentage increase for wheat and coarse grains trade during the period ending mid-2014. Forecasts on this basis show a reduction in trade during the current 2014/15 year, amid lower imports into China. A partial offset is foreseen, assuming higher Chinese soyabeans imports.
Large and varied minor bulk commodity volumes comprise about one-third of global seaborne dry bulk trade. In 2014 the minor bulk sector’s total, estimated at around 1500mt, may be flat compared with the preceding twelve months. Some favourable influences benefiting industrial bulks movements related to manufacturing and construction, the largest part, could be offset by reductions elsewhere.
BULK CARRIER FLEET
Further brisk growth in the world fleet of bulk carriers this year is predicted, at a slightly less rapid rate than seen in 2013, continuing the deceleration trend, as shown by table 2. A 38m deadweight tonnes or 5% increase to 761m dwt at end-2014 is estimated. Newbuilding deliveries are likely to be lower, but signs point to sharply lower scrapping as well.