Forget air miles – approximately 90 per cent of the world’s bulk traded goods are transported by sea, making shipping the lifeblood of the global economy. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that in 2008 the shipping industry transported more than 7.7 thousand million tons of cargo.
Advances in technology have made shipping the most fuel-efficient and carbon-friendly form of commercial transport available. And all current trends and trading patterns indicate that an even greater proportion of the world’s trade will be carried out by sea in the future. Without shipping, the transport of crude oil, coal, iron ore and raw materials, including feedstocks and metals, would simply not be possible. Intercontinental trade in affordable food and manufactured goods would cease to exist in all but the most niche and exclusive areas. International supply networks would break down.
But with approximately 50,000 merchant ships traversing international trading routes, the freight market can be summed up in two words: volatile and complex. Ship owners, operators and charterers have to navigate an intricate, multi-faceted and inter-dependent freight market and are at the mercy of hundreds of events that can impact the cost of transport – and hence profit margins – every day.
The prevalence of piracy off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden is perhaps the most obvious and has caused shippers either to pay exorbitant war risk insurance premiums, or to re-route and add delays and extra fuel costs to the journey. UNCTAD’s 2009 Review of Maritime Transport found that, based on 2007 data, re-routing 33 per cent of cargo from the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope because of piracy concerns would cost ship owners an additional $7.5 billion per annum. These costs will ultimately be passed on to consumers.
It’s not just piracy that causes problems. Even if traffic through the Suez Canal were to be re-routed, other key shipping ‘choke’ points remain. Congestion in the world’s strategic shipping lanes, such as the Panama Canal, the Bosporus, the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, as well as the Suez, can cause significant delays and add costs to journeys.
But even with a safe route planned out, other challenges inherent to the shipping industry remain to confound its participants and their profit margins. Seasonal differences, whether it is iced up ports, swollen river levels, or the size of harvest, have to be taken into account, for example. But even these fluctuations in weather and climate provide a more predictable framework of operations compared to demand for commodities, which can change rapidly in response to the ebb and flow of the global economy and industrial production in specific countries.
Equally hard to predict is price volatility for bunker fuel – which accounts for at least 25 per cent of the cost of running a vessel. What participants in the shipping industry do know is that climate change restrictions are coming into force. The cost of ships’ fuel is expected to increase by a further 50 per cent as result of the increased use of low-sulfur distillate fuel that will follow the implementation of the new IMO rules (MARPOL Annex VI). These will reduce the allowable sulfur content to just 0.1 per cent in 2015, down from the 1.5 per cent permitted today in prescribed Emission Control Areas (ECAs) – currently the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and certain shipping lanes around the US and Canada. Outside these ECAs, shippers are obliged to reduce the sulfur content of fuel from 4.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent. The IMO rules therefore add to the complexity involved in planning routes effectively, ensuring the right ships make the right journeys and optimising fuel consumption.
Then there is the size of the available fleet that has to be borne in mind: too few or too many vessels directly affects prices, which in turn affects freight rates. And finally, trading finance and credit conditions can positively or negatively affect both investment spending and consumer activity.
Managing all these elements – and many more – is critical for successful shipping operations, particularly as prices of fuel, commodities, cargo, credit and vessel hire continue to fluctuate once a ship has embarked on its journey.
Ocean Tankers has licensed Triple Point’s chartering and vessel operations software to manage all pre- and post-fixture activities for its wet bulk shipping operations. Ocean Tankers specializes in the transportation of petroleum and related products and provides worldwide coverage.
Incorporated in the Republic of Singapore in 1978, Ocean Tankers has over 2.3 million DWT (Deadweight tonnage) of carrying capacity and services a wide network of customers, including oil majors, state-owned oil companies, and international trading houses. The company manages a fleet of 83 vessels, ranging from small coastal vessels to large ULCCs (Ultra Large Crude Carriers).
“Shipping is a key element of an efficient and effective commodity supply chain, and Triple Point provides the only commodity management solution with the functional depth and breadth to handle voyage estimating, post-fix operations, bunker procurement, and freight risk management in its shipping platform,” said Michael Lolk Larsen, managing director, chartering and vessel operations, Triple Point. “Triple Point is proud to include Ocean Tankers as a customer, and we look forward to supporting its growing operations.”
Triple Point is successfully claiming market share with a diverse group of commodity participants, energy companies, industrial manufacturers, CP companies, and ship owners/operators that have selected Triple Point to manage the supply and distribution of commodities via ocean-going vessel, including: Bunge, Louis Dreyfus, Transgrain (Nidera), Olam International, Glencore, Gunvor International B.V., Hindustan Petroleum-Mittal Energy, SAB Miller, Petredec Limited, Prime East Shipping, Berge Bulk, Beluga, United Arab Chemical Carriers (UACC), and U-Sea Bulk.
Beluga Shipping GmbH licensed Triple Point’s flagship chartering and vessel operations software to profitably manage all pre- and post-fixture activities of its heavy-lift transport operations.
Beluga Group provides a full range of customized transport solutions including shipping, chartering, and fleet management operations. Beluga Group is the worldwide leader in the heavy-lift shipping segment and operates a modern fleet of 72 multipurpose heavy-lift project carriers, equipped to lift a combinable load of up to 1400 tons. The company is based in the Hanseatic city of Bremen, Germany and serves targeted industry sectors including oil and gas, refining, petrochemicals, wind energy, and more.
“Triple Point’s shipping software enables Beluga Group to meet strict requirements for precise handling and transport of the largest, most complex cargoes anywhere in the world,” said Michael Lolk Larsen, managing director, chartering and vessel operations, Triple Point. “We are pleased to add Beluga to our expanding community of world-class shipping customers.”
Triple Point is successfully claiming market share with a diverse group of commodity houses, energy companies, industrial manufacturers, CP companies, and ship owners/operators that have selected Triple Point to manage the supply and distribution of commodities via ocean-going vessel, including: Maestro Shipping, Prime East, Berge Bulk, Ultrabulk, Beluga Shipping, Practica Shipping, United Arab Chemical Carriers (UACC), Atlas Shipping, Navios Maritime, U-Sea Bulk, Oldendorff, Isaphia, Petredec Services, SAB Miller, Hindustan Petroleum-Mittal Energy, Gunvor International B.V., Louis Dreyfus, Bunge, Glencore, Transgrain (Nidera), and Olam International.