Prospects for further growth in global seaborne dry bulk trade seem to be quite limited. Indications of rising import demand for commodities are still visible, around the world, but many are not very prominent. In some of the largest individual trade movements, flat or reduced volumes in 2016 are foreseeable.
One aspect is the subdued progress of several key economies. Forecasts continue to be downgraded. In the USA, Eurozone and Japan, this year’s GDP growth could be slightly slower than seen in the previous twelve months, at 2.2%, 1.6% and 0.3% respectively, according to recent IMF calculations. By contrast, estimates of China’s economic output expansion this year have been raised slightly, to 6.6%.
World seaborne iron ore trade, the largest commodity movement, is expected to increase modestly again in 2016. As shown in table 1, a 2% rise to 1,380mt (million tonnes) appears achievable, mainly resulting from the continued upwards trend in China’s purchases, comprising a high proportion of the global total. Elsewhere, positive signs are less visible.
Among other major importers — Japan, South Korea and the European Union — flat or weaker steel production seems set to result in similar changes in raw materials imports. While in China lower domestic production of iron ore benefits import demand, which consequently can strengthen even when steel output declines, a similar pattern is not evident
elsewhere. Minor importers are not likely to provide a
After last year’s large reduction and a previous smaller
decline, seaborne coal trade may continue diminishing
2016. Estimates contained in table 1 show a marginal
global decrease to 1,103mt, although there is much
uncertainty about both the direction and magnitude of
change in several key importing countries.
Negative influences affecting coal trade are highly visible.
In many countries a long term shift towards cleaner energy sources is well under way. But annual changes in coal
import demand are still difficult to predict. Lower imports,
especially of steam coal used in power stations — which
comprise three-quarters of total trade — are likely in Europe,
Japan and India this year. By contrast, China’s imports may
Compared with last year, changes in import demand
strengthening global seaborne grain trade (comprising
wheat, corn and other coarse grains plus soyabeans) seem to
be less pronounced. Signs of weakness in some importing
countries are also evident. The result may be a slight overall
2% increase in 2016, raising the total, to 462mt.
Grain trade estimates are usually somewhat speculative,
since calculations are based partly on unpredictable weather
conditions affecting domestic harvests in importing countries
as well as production in exporting countries.
Since the mid point this year has now passed, the pattern
of import demand has become clearer. One of the main
changes restraining trade is an expected reduction of China’s
grain (but not soyabeans) imports due to very high corn
Over one-third of all dry bulk trade consists of minor bulk
commodities, a varied and extensive group. Commodities
related to construction and manufacturing comprise the
largest part, with the remainder related to agriculture. Last
year the global total appears to have increased, reaching
around 1,800mt, and some elements could see further
growth in 2016.
BULK CARRIER FLEET
The capacity of the world fleet of bulk carriers has continued
to slow, and another deceleration is predicted, as shown by
table 2. In 2016 the growth rate is estimated at under 2%.
Despite the possibility of higher newbuilding deliveries
adding to the fleet this year, scrapping of old or
uneconomical ships is set to rise, resulting in a smaller net
increase in deadweight cargo-carrying capacity.