Heavylift / Breakbulk
Size isn’t everything
Heavylift shipping lines are adapting to the trend towards ever heavier consignments in the segment by increasing the heavylift capacities of their ships. A ranking by the Dutch consultancy Dynamar illustrates interesting developments between the industry’s leading firms. Dynamar senior shipping consultant Dirk Visser believes that the project cargo market will see some improvement in 2014.
More capacity is be on offer – but with fewer ships. This is the succinct summary of prospective developments in the fleets of the ten largest breakbulk shipping lines that operate multipurpose or heavylift freighters.
The shipping lines Cosco, Thorco, BBC, Spliethoff, Swire, Rickmers-Linie, Chipolbrok, Macs, Hansa Heavy Lift and Intermarine operated a total of 480 vessels with a combined aggregate of 7.89 million dwt in April 2014. This represented 7.4% more than the 7.35 million dwt that were managed early in 2013.
The Cosco Shipping Co remains the largest breakbulk operator by deadweight capacity, even though its fleet is smaller by 23 vessels. This is a result of the scrapping of elderly units as well as delivery-slippage of a number of newbuildings. The average age of the Chinese line’s ships came down from 17 to 8 years.
Merger causes a shake-up
The merger of the major market players Clipper Projects and Thorco into the new Thorco last summer has resulted in Thorco overtaking the second-placed operator BBC Chartering in terms of dwt. But with 131 units the latter continues to deploy the largest number of ships by far. Hansa Heavy Lift is the only newcomer in the list, coming in ninth and displacing PACC.
If we take a look at the heavylift capacities of each operator’s fleet, then the picture is a bit different. The table on the right gives an overview of the top breakbulk operators by the aggregated heavylift capability of their operated fleet of multipurpose ships – that is project cargo and heavylift units – in mid-April 2014.
Open-hatch gantry crane vessels (OHGC), ro-ro units, vehicle carriers, specialist heavy-load ships and semi-submersible units are not included in this tally, even though they partially operate in breakbulk markets too.
On the cut-off date in mid-April 2014, the 480 vessels operated by these ten companies have an aggregated heavylift capability of 136,000 t (which is 31% higher than in early 2013), with an average of 280 t per unit (which is, in turn, 29% higher than in early 2013).
Several top lines in various categories
With a total of 42,000 t, BBC Chartering remains the most capable operator in the pack, with the average heavylift capacity of the German company’s vessels coming to 320 t.
The ships deployed by the company ranked second in the list, Hansa Heavy Lift (19,000 t in total), have a substantially higher average crane capacity per ship, however, namely a rather impressive 770 t. HHL also has the youngest ships, on average.
Thorco comes third in terms of its aggregate lifting capacity. Rickmers-Linie vessels have a considerably higher lifting capacity per vessel, though, namely a very respectable 520 t, as do Chipolbrok’s units, hard on the fourth-placed firm’s heels, with 500 t average lifting capacity per vessel. The heavylift capacity of Thorco’s units comes to just 180 t on average.
The question of how the market will develop in general this year remains largely open in the opinion of the experts (see also page 17). Dirk Visser, a senior shipping consultant with Dynamar, a market analyst based in Alkmaar in the Netherlands, is cautiously optimistic, saying that «the breakbulk / project market was in a very bad state at the end of 2013. It has improved now in 2014, with demand recovering and rates increasing since March. I believe that the coming year will be good – and that 2016 promises to be even better.»