Friday, April 22, 2016

Fancy a real shipping bargain?

I've written (and warned) about international cargo shipping for some years, most recently in January.  I said at the time:  "People, if you ever needed one single sign that would point out an impending economic recession, this is it."  Back in 2014 I wrote:  "the international shipping of containers and bulk cargo is a harbinger of world economic conditions."

Roost, meet chickens.  Chickens, roost.  The Telegraph reports:

A heavily indebted shipping firm has been forced to sell off its fleet for as little as $1 a piece as the global shipping crisis takes its toll.

Goldenport Holdings said on Friday that it would sell six of its eight vessels for a token consideration of $1 each, while it would look for the best price it can get on its two remaining ships. The company will also delist from the London Stock Exchange after its debt pile spiralled “significantly higher” than the value of its fleet.

. . .

The global shipping market has been violently shaken by the Chinese economic slowdown after a rapid debt-fuelled expansion in the early years of this decade.

The world’s shipping fleet doubled from 2010 to 2013 even as demand for shipped commodities dwindled. Loss-making vessels have nonetheless stubbornly remained in the market, accepting tenders well below their cost base, in order to pay down the minimum interest on crippling bank loans.

These so-called ‘zombie vessels’ have forced freight rates lower still, plunging the market into crisis.

There's more at the link.

That's one dollar apiece for ships that originally cost tens of millions of dollars.  Quite a bargain . . . but probably only as scrap metal, because they couldn't earn their keep on international trade routes before, and it's unlikely they'll be able to do so for some considerable time.

People, I've warned for years that our economic unfolding is proceeding and will continue to proceed, whether we like it or not.  Back in 2013 I noted that the long, slow economic decline was speeding up.  Since then that's come to pass, and it's happening faster and faster, right in front of our eyes - if we have wisdom enough to use them.  Just this morning I reported on a pension fund that's applied to drastically cut its payments to members - in the example quoted, by more than half.  Last week we learned that one of the biggest healthcare insurers is pulling out of Obamacare, citing losses amounting to almost a billion dollars.  Last month I highlighted more economic factors that were of profound concern.  The month before that I reported on GDP's "lies, damned lies and statistics".

I've been doing that sort of thing for months, until I'm sure some readers became fed up with the subject.  Sadly, economic reality will proceed whether we like it or not.  That's what led to this morning's announcement by that shipping company.  We're in trouble, and it's getting worse by the day.  Read the signs all around you, and get ready for it as best you can.



B said...

Your estimate of "tens of millions" is off by a factor of over a hundred.

That wouldn't cover the cost of the steel in a boat like that. or even the non-propulsion equipment...even used.

Bibliotheca Servare said...

I don't even...*why*? What benefit could there be from selling a unfathomably expensive ship like that...for one dollar? Why not more?

Steffen said...

Any chance of cargo shipping containers becoming cheap to obtain as well?

Peter said...

@Bibliotheca Servare: Because there's no demand for them. No-one wants ships they can't operate profitably. The only people who want them are ship scrap yards, and even they may not buy them if the cost of sailing them from where they are now to where they'll be dismantled is too great. Hence, a $1 selling price, which makes the cost of sailing the ship to its final destination affordable.

JW MONDAK said...

I wonder how that will effect the intermodal side of trucking?

Donald Stephens said...

This is one of those English things: the offer is for £1 subject to the existing debt. The custom is so ingrained they don't bother to explain it as "everyone" knows. (I found this out a couple of years ago.) It's a prelude to administration or repossession and demonstrates to the courts or lien-holders that there are no takers. (See! We can't give it away!)

Bibliotheca Servare said...

Ohhh. Okay. Does that include the debt, as Donald Stephens said below? I figured it was something like that, but my brain hasn't been working too well today, heh. Thanks for explaining! :-)

tweell said...

Right now, scrap metal prices are in the basement as well. There are three engine blocks in my mother's garage (dad never did get around to doing anything with them). I can't find a scrap yard that wants them, even if I bring them over in my truck. Used shipping containers are dirt cheap, they're a glut on the market. I'm seeing them for under $1500, and that's delivered.

Francis Turner said...

From reading this blog post and associated links, I think this is more that the Greek majority shareholders are fleecing the rest of the investors in the company by asset stripping the carcass via bankruptcy.

Key lines (IMHO):

"The six ships already sold have been transferred to the ownership of small companies owned by the Dragnis family which originally set up Goldenport and brought the company to the stock market."