Various signs emerging over the past couple of months reinforced optimism about global dry bulk
trade growth in 2010. Imports of many commodities related to industrial activity, in a wide range of countries,
could increase in the year ahead. How strong and sustained this expected strengthening will prove is not yet clear
though. It seems much clearer that the bulk carrier fleet will expand very rapidly.
Forecasters expect economic activity around the world to continue reviving. A recent OECD report suggested that GDP
in the group of countries within the OECD area (USA, EU, Japan and Korea) could grow by +1.9% in 2010, after a
severe contraction of -3.5% last year. Recovery is being “held back by still substantial headwinds” however, and is likely to remain modest for some time.
One of the weakest dry bulk trade elements currently is grain. International Grains Council estimates point to global
wheat and coarse grains trade falling by 8% during the current 2009/10 year ending June. From 247.1mt (million
tonnes) in the previous year, the total could decline by 18.7mt, to 228.4mt, as shown by table 1. Sharply lower
imports into the Middle East area, especially Iran, and North African countries are prominent features.
Higher soyabeans and meal trade is likely to provide only a partial offset. The total in this category may increase by
4mt or 3% to 131.7mt, in the marketing year ending September, according to USDA calculations. Slightly larger
imports into Europe, accompanied by strong demand from China and some growth elsewhere, are foreseen.
Reports suggest that iron ore imports are reviving solidly in many countries. Steel production in Japan and Europe has
rebounded from the extremely low levels seen in the first half of last year, boosting raw materials consumption.
China’s iron ore imports have increased greatly over the past year, although the fourth quarter 2009 total was below the
third quarter volume.
Global seaborne iron ore trade looks set to increase robustly in 2010. Despite uncertainty about how much
further growth will be seen in China’s imports, higher volumes into the European Union, Japan, South Korea and
Taiwan seem likely to greatly raise the world total. Overall expansion of 8–10% may be attainable, assuming that global
economic recovery continues to boost steel demand and output.
Resumed coal trade growth is envisaged this year, assisted by an upturn in coking coal movements. In 2009 steam coal
trade appears to have been roughly flat, but lower coking coal import demand in a number of the main steel producing
countries resulted in this sector weakening.
Estimates released recently by Abare indicate that world metallurgical coal trade (coking coal plus steam coal grades
used in the steel industry) could be 17mt or 8% higher in 2010, raising the total to 232mt. China’s imports of this coal
type are expected to decline after rapid expansion last year.
By contrast, purchases by European countries, Japan, Indiaand Korea may increase.
Prospects for ‘industrial’ minor bulk commodity trades seem fairly encouraging, reflecting positive expectations for
manufacturing output and construction activity. The industrial minor bulks category — including steel products, forest
products, bauxite/alumina, cement and scrap — weakened sharply in 2009 from a global seaborne trade total of around
800m in the previous 12 months. During the year ahead a recovery is envisaged.
BULK CARRIER FLEET
Rapid expansion of bulk carrier fleet capacity will remain a feature over the next 12 months. But, in the Handysize
sector, any growth is likely to be very limited, following an estimated marginal capacity reduction last year, as shown in
Handysize newbuilding deliveries in 2010, although probably higher, may be wholly or largely offset by substantial scrapping.