A FUTURE Labour government would introduce the biggest political changes for British shipping since John Prescott's shake-up of nearly two decades ago, the party's current shipping spokesman Karl Turner said in an interview.
Mr Turner said pay rates for seafarers on British flag ships would be equalised regardless of nationality, and tonnage tax beneficiaries would have to train ratings. But he ruled out any plan to renationalise Associated British Ports.
IF THE old saying that shipping is the bloodline of global trade holds true in 2018, owners will finally welcome the long-awaited year of recovery - albeit cautiously.
There are catalysts for a market upturn in nearly all merchant shipping sectors, yet at the same time the fragile recovery could be easily derailed by continued fleet growth and macroeconomic risks.
For now, the most cited reason for optimism, namely improving global economic prospects, is still there, supporting underlying confidence among owners.
The latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund puts the world's economic growth rate next year at 3.7% in 2018, compared with 3.6% in 2017 and 3.2% in 2016. Global growth of real gross domestic product is projected to accelerate to 2.9% next year from 2.7% this year, according to the World Bank.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also expects global growth to go on an upward trajectory in 2016-2018.
The momentum is widespread among advanced and emerging economies, except for Brexit-plagued Britain, the forecasters said, painting a rosy outlook for general maritime trades because a broad recovery tends to favour shipments between regions.
But there are also risks. The World Trade Organisation said the growth of global merchandise volume should fall to 3.2% in 2018 from 3.6% this year, although added that the expansion could be as much as 4.4% or as little as 1.4%. Higher base, tighter monetary policy in developed countries and Beijing's efforts at reining in fiscal expansion and easy credit are behind the deceleration, the WTO said.
In terms of seaborne trade, Clarksons has predicted an annual growth of 3.5% next year, lower than the 2017 level of 4.1%, but higher than the 10-year compound annual growth rate of 3.1%.
Moreover, overall fleet growth is likely to remain high next year, in part owing to slippage from 2016 and 2017. Lloyd's List Intelligence expects growth to reach 4.3% in deadweight tonne terms in 2018, compared with 3.8% this year. At the end of 2018, the world's fleet will consist of 126,260 vessels, totalling 2.1bn dwt.
Crude and product tankers
Based on forecast supply-demand fundamentals, tanker owners might enjoy a soft recovery at best in 2018.
With the large number of newbuilding deliveries, LLI has expected fleet growth for crude tankers to reach 6.4% in 2018 against 6.6% in 2017. As for product tankers, fleet growth is projected to marginally fall to 4.1% from 4.3%, when those vessels that can carry both oil and chemical products are combined.
But the owners can find hope on the demand side, with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries predicting a healthy oil demand growth of 1.5m barrels per day next year, which is the same as in 2017. The International Energy Agency has predicted growth of 1.4m bpd for 2018.
Most analysts expect earnings of product tankers to recover before crude tankers, because the former's oversupply could ease soon on more shipments after the destocking process completes.
"Consistent consumption growth should draw down inventory levels along with seasonality stronger rates in the winter months," Stifel said in a note. "Combining that with lower supply growth, eventually product tanker rates should improve."
Having endured depressed market conditions in the past few quarters, liquefied natural and liquefied petroleum gas carriers could enjoy some respite. Many analysts are expecting LNG shipping to be the star performer in 2018, with trade growth in this sector outpacing fleet expansion. Based on LLI forecasts, the trading fleet of LNG carriers will expand by 8.8% in terms of cu m, compared with 4.8% in 2017, with large newbuilding tonnage.
But global LNG trade growth will accelerate to 13% from 10%, according to Clarksons. The pace of recovery will be slower in LPG shipping, with flattening trade demand growth, even as the number of newbuilding deliveries is falling. The global fleet of LPG carriers will expand its capacity by 7.6% next year, compared with 9.6% in 2017, according to LLI.
The dry bulk shipping markets are about to enjoy their best trading periods since 2013-2014 - but it remains to be seen whether owners can really make net profits.
The easing oversupply has given owners hope, because some analysts predict net fleet growth of less than 1% in 2018 if scrapping picks up ahead of new International Maritime Organization rules taking effect.
However, some other estimates are more conservative. The trading fleet's capacity expansion rate could still be as high as 4.2%, compared with 3.3% this year, according to LLI, driven by deliveries in the segment of 200,000 dwt vessels or larger.
There are also mixed signals on the demand side, with iron ore and coal imports to China, the world's largest dry bulk trading nation, supported by healthy economic growth but potentially curbed by environmental policies.
Jefferies has predicted global dry bulk trade growth of 2%-3% in 2018, similar to this year's level.
As 2017 is turning out to be a better-than-expected year, container carriers are getting a chance to keep their heads above water.
Next year, the fleet growth is expected to accelerate owing to scheduled deliveries and large slippage from 2017, but trade growth will hold firm as global economy recovers.
LLI has forecast the annual fleet growth rate will increase to 5.6% in teu terms in 2018 from 3.8% this year, mainly owing to the larger number of newbuilding deliveries of 10,000 teu vessels or larger.
But seaborne container trade will expand by 5% next year, the same as in 2017, Clarksons has predicted, citing strong trade prospects in both main lanes and non-main lanes.
"It seems that the foundations for a more lasting improvement in the market environment are being put into place," according the brokerage's latest Container Intelligence Quarterly.
JAPAN'S Mitsui OSK Lines has inked a memorandum of understanding with trading conglomerate Marubeni Corporation and Russian gas production and sales firm Novatek to explore the possibility of setting up a liquefied natural gas transhipment and marketing facility in Kamchatka.
The gas will be extracted from LNG projects that Novatek is in the process of developing in the Arctic.
THE European Community Shipowners' Associations will throw its weight behind defending the competitive power of European shipowners against the growing strength of international rivals, its new secretary-general Martin Dorsman has said in an interview.
Mr Dorsman, who took up the role on November 1, will present his strategic vision to the board of the shipowner lobby group in early December.
THE International Maritime Organization needs to change the way it uses data to better grasp casualty factors to help it devise more effective regulation, according to its secretary-general Kitack Lim.
Speaking at the opening of the IMO's general assembly in London on Monday, Mr Lim said the global maritime regulator must become "more effective — and that means more nimble and more adaptive".
THE handysize segment or vessels in the 12,000 cu m to 25,000 cu m capacity range are likely to be hardest hit going into 2018 amid an oversupplied liquefied petroleum gas carrier market, according to Drewry.
Abundant capacity in the market is forecast to continue to depress freight rates in the segment as the growing trend of long-haul LPG routes sees very large gas carriers as the preferred form of transportation.
MEDIUM range tankers have emerged as the bright spot in the oil shipping sector this winter, with cargo flows supported by healthy demand in the East-of-Suez market and refinery maintenance in Europe and the former Soviet Union countries.
Vessel earnings have been boosted by robust demand for longhaul shipments from North Asia to Australia and the US-Mexico range, the Ocean Freight Exchange said in a research note.
Excellence in shipping
THE winners of the 2017 Lloyd's List South Asia, Middle East and Africa Awards have been announced, with Radhika Menon named as the first woman to clinch the coveted Seafarer award.
The event, before over 300 guests and senior executives at the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai on Tuesday evening, also recognised Tamer Masoud for his contribution to the development of the Port of Fujairah with the Outstanding Achievement Award.
LLOYD'S List will launch new categories in an expanded Americas Awards next year to reflect changing challenges for the shipping industry.
The event, in Houston on May 23, will celebrate advancements in fuel solutions, technology for cleaner emissions and cyber security, in response to stricter emissions regulations taking effect in 2020 and growing risks to shipping from cyber attacks.
SHIPOWNER Evangelos Marinakis was named Greek Shipping Personality of the Year for 2017 and veteran Onassis Group personality Pavlos Ioannidis was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 14th annual Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards.
The event, at the Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel in Athens, mixed recognition of the country's unique maritime tradition with awareness of the growing influence of digitalisation and other new technologies.
MAERSK Group has stepped up the integration of its transport and logistics division by appointing Maersk Line chief operating officer Søren Toft, chief commercial officer Vincent Clerc and APM Terminals chief executive Morten Engelstoft to the group's executive board.
THORESEN Thai Agencies' dry bulk shipping unit has disposed of an older bulk carrier as it continues with its fleet renewal programme.
ITALY-based d'Amico International Shipping has signed a memorandum of agreement for a sale and leaseback transaction worth $14.1m.
PORT of Rotterdam has joined four other electricity and gas grid companies in a consortium to develop large-scale offshore wind power facilities in the North Sea in order to help meet environmental objectives set during the Paris climate change agreement.
SOUTH Korea's SM Line said it has started a boxship sailing to test a real-time vessel monitoring system based off Internet of Things technology.
NEW York-listed Teekay Tankers has completed its long awaited merger with Tanker Investments with the latter becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary.
SOUTH Korea's antitrust watchdog has give its approval of Maersk Line's merger with Hamburg Sd on condition that they withdraw from their alliances with other shipping lines on a number of routes.