Global import demand for dry bulk commodities is
reviving, and the positive trend could continue. Last
year saw very strong iron ore trade growth, but
other commodity movements were either flat or down.
Overall seaborne dry bulk trade evidently decreased
marginally. In 2010 a strengthening world economy will be
supportive. The bulk carrier fleet is set to expand rapidly
Optimism about a global economic recovery persisting
through the next twelve months is still prominent, although
not all signs are convincing. Some recent indicators suggest
that the upturn gathering momentum in the past few
months may be faltering. Given the nature of the recession
experienced by the developed countries, steady, smooth
progress may be hard to achieve.
Further strong expansion of iron ore trade is foreseeable
during 2010, amid rebounding steel production in the
countries which have seen large reductions. Steeply declining
ore imports into Japan, Europe and South Korea last year were
more than offset by China’s massive upsurge, resulting in
global seaborne iron ore trade as a whole growing rapidly, as
shown by table 1. Another robust advance this year is likely
to be based on broader foundations.
An upturn in steel production in the European Union,
Japan and Korea in the current year seems likely, benefiting
raw materials import demand. Although this improving trend
could be accompanied by a much slower increase in China’s
purchases, world seaborne iron ore trade during 2010 may
rise by about 8%, raising the total to just over 1bn tonnes.
Indications of prospects for coal trade this year point to
resumed growth after a flat performance in 2009. In the
past year, movements of steam coal apparently increased
slightly, but coking coal shipments were greatly reduced
because of the steel industry downturn among importing
countries. Trade volume as a whole apparently was almost
Assuming that the economic activity pick up in many
countries proves sustainable, higher electricity demand can
be expected to have a positive impact on power stations’
steam coal usage and imports over the next twelve months.
Together with an upturn in coking coal requirements amid
rising steel output, global seaborne coal trade could increase
by around 4% in 2010, reaching 851mt (million tonnes).
Prospects for seaborne grain trade (wheat, coarse grains and
soyabeans) over the twelve months ahead are only partly
visible. In the immediate future up to mid-2010 import
demand is set to remain subdued. Many importing countries
had good harvests last summer, reducing foreign purchases.
This factor has been especially noticeable in the Middle East
area and North Africa.
Beyond mid-2010, this summer’s grain production in
northern hemisphere importing countries will greatly
determine how trade evolves. Currently it is much too early
to forecast these crops accurately, because weather
conditions over the remainder of the growing season and
during harvesting are unpredictable. The second-half outlook
is therefore unclear. Estimates of 1% growth in world
seaborne grain trade in 2010, to 288mt, are tentative.
Almost three-quarters of the extensive minor bulk trades
sector is comprised of ‘industrial’ commodities — bauxite/
alumina, steel products, forest products, cement and others.
After the sharp downturn which occurred in parts of this
category last year, reviving manufacturing and construction
could boost activity during 2010. Overall minor bulk trade
may increase by 4%, to 1,046mt.
As indicated by table 2, fast growth of bulk carrier fleet
capacity looks set to continue. Shipyard order book slippage
and postponements are likely to greatly reduce the
scheduled newbuilding deliveries total, but 2010 deliveries
could still rise by 40% or more, to 60–65m dwt. Although
higher scrapping is likely as well, fleet growth this year could
exceed 10%, from 460m dwt at end-2009.