In 2017, the total number of cement carriers topped 360 units, with the total dead weight tonnage surpassing 2.7 million, the highest figure recorded since 2010.
According to CW Research’s 2018 update of the World Cement, Clinker & Slag Sea-Based Trade Report, this rising trend was boosted by a growing demand for cement carriers in key domestic trade markets.
2017 also recorded an increase in the transportation cost of almost all types of dry bulk cargo, causing the Baltic freight index to grow to its highest value over the last four years. Rising shipping expenses were also boosted by an increase in China’s commodity imports, primarily of coal and iron ore.
Despite an initially positive outlook for 2018, the dry bulk market is likely to be shaken by international trade conflicts that could have large-scale repercussions.
“The optimistic outlook for the dry bulk market in 2018 was interrupted by an unexpected trade war between the US and China”, observes Raluca Cercel, Associate with CW Group. “The consequences of the import tariffs imposed by the US are already being felt in the shipping market, and as a response, China has recently announced the intention to extend its tariffs on imports from the US to several more agricultural products, including soybeans.”
Asia-Pacific boosting global seaborne trade
There are currently more than 360 active specialized cement carriers operating around the world. These vessels move about 25 million tons of cement per year internationally in markets such as Japan, Greece, and Indonesia. Apart from specialized cement carriers, cementitious materials are also shipped via general dry bulk carriers, with Greece, Japan and China accounting for more than half of the global fleet.
Most cement carriers are concentrated in Asia-Pacific, a trend that can be explained by the size of cement trade in the area, furthered by environmental regulations related to cement spillage, as well as unfavorable weather conditions that make it difficult to unload and unload cement from general bulkers.
Although specialized carriers can be chartered, major cement producers often operate their own, in an effort to improve logistic efficiency. LafargeHolcim, Heidelberg Cement, and Cemex account for a combined share of almost 20 percent of this segment.
In 2018, new capacity can be expected to emerge in the cement seaborne trading market, including the conversion of bulk carriers.
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