Extensive Handymax bulk carrier employment is also
provided by the grain (including soya) trade. The most visible
feature is highly variable and unpredictable changes in
geographical patterns and quantities. During the past crop year
ending mid-2016, global trade in wheat and coarse grains, and
also in soyabeans and meal, increased robustly, but over the
current year ending mid-2017 some negative factors are likely to
weaken global import demand for grain.
Higher imports into numerous countries contributed to
recent strength in grain and soya movements, facilitated by
abundant export supplies around the world. According to
International Grains Council calculations, global trade in wheat
plus corn and other coarse grains increased by 21mt (7%) in
crop year 2015/16 ending June, reaching 343mt. Global trade in
soyabeans and meal was 11mt (6%) higher in marketing year
2015/16 ending September, at 195mt, based on US Dept of
Handymax grain trade employment opportunities, over the
past 12 months, benefited from larger imports into many Asian
countries, Africa and Europe, while China and some other
countries lowered their purchases. Soya sub-sector involvement
was supported by China’s continued upwards soyabeans import
trend, as well as increased volumes into other parts of Asia, the
European Union and elsewhere.
The upwards trajectory of world soya movements is
expected to persist during the 2016/17 year ahead, supported by
China and others buying additional cargoes. Global wheat and
coarse grains trade, conversely, could be weakened in particular
by lower feedgrains imports into China and the European Union.
Bulk carriers of Handymax size are widely employed carrying
cargoes in the ‘minor dry bulk’ category. Many elements of this
commodities group are actually large, collectively amounting to
massive annual volumes. The commodity range is extensive and
in 2015 the total appears to have reached over 1,800mt.
However, growth has slowed in the past couple of years, and
that slacker pace may continue.
The biggest individual minor bulk trade components are steel
products (coil, sheet, plate and other items), and forest products,
although not all quantities are carried by bulk carriers.
Bauxite/alumina for the aluminium industry, fertilizer raw
materials and semi-finished fertilizers and cement provide very
big tonnages, accompanied by large quantities of ores and
minerals such as nickel and manganese ore,.
One prominent example, steel products exports from China,
is a huge trade frequently employing Handymaxes. This trade
has expanded strongly, as a result of an intensified focus on
foreign markets, amid surplus capacity in Chinese steel mills
caused by slowing domestic consumption. The annual total of
China’s steel exports to all destinations has more than doubled
in the past three years reaching 112mt in 2015, and could remain
high. In the first nine months of 2016, the volume reportedly
rose by 2%, to 85mt.
Recent investment interest has firmly shifted towards higher
deadweight cargo capacity of 60–65,000dwt, at the top end of
the Handymax size range, in the past few years. Previously the
Supramax, typically 52–57,000 dwt, was the preferred unit and
became ubiquitous, taking over from smaller Handymaxes