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Breakbulk September 2019

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8 The Journal of Commerce | September 2019 www.joc.com Cover Story Breakbulk & Project Cargo as cautious pessimism at best," he told The Journal of Commerce. Klijn cited "multiple and worsen- ing political uncertainties," including Britain's plan to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, which is "hanging over us like a dark cloud." "On top of that, the German economy looks to be slowing; there are political problems in Italy; there is the damaging trade war between the US and China; and there is the growing instability in the Middle East as relations with Iran worsen still further," he said. "All of this is com - pletely out of the control of us and our members, but it has the effect of stifling investment in new projects. And that is not good news at all." There are also specific issues in the European market, such as the growing level of populism — and protectionism — creating unneces- sary complexities, and petty local bureaucracies making it harder to obtain heavy transport permits, Klijn said. ESTA has long campaigned for the harmonization of standards and regulations across Europe. "For many of our members, the single European market does not really exist in prac- tice," he said. Even so, Klijn said, there's enor- mous potential in the US market. Increases in infrastructure investment, ongoing strength in the wind energy sector, and the still-growing demand for maintenance in the oil and gas sectors, despite the long-term trend against fossil fuels, all point to a healthier heavy transport sector going forward. l email: keithwallis@hotmail.com Transport and Mobile Cranes (ESTA), emphasized that wider geopolitical concerns are darkening that outlook, but said there are still grounds for optimism. "Until the end of last year, we at ESTA were cautiously optimistic about the state of the markets our members work in. Public finances were continuing to improve after the 2008 crash and private sector confi- dence was increasing — both factors that stimulate investment. But today, I would have to describe our attitude The introduction of these super-sized offshore turbines will present new logistical demands in handling and installation." Key project types for EPC contrac- tors and heavy transport and lifting firms include oil and gas in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan; mining in eastern Europe and South America; and petrochemicals in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. "Invest- ments are now being brought forward, including oil and gas and petrochem- icals in the US, central Africa, Russia, and Kazakhstan," Tippmann said. Belli said North America, Asia, and the Middle East offer the biggest opportunities, but "Africa could be a new horizon," noting that infrastruc- ture improvements and the decom- missioning of redundant facilities will likely be of growing importance for the heavy transport industry. 'Cautious pessimism' Although activity is picking up, Tippmann said some cautious inves- tors still are keeping new investments on hold. And while wind energy proj- ects are moving, the sector is under heightened pressure in Europe, where prices have dropped considerably. Belli also cautioned against an overly optimistic outlook in the short term. "It has to be said that even if the projects, and consequently con- tracts, are back on track, profitability is still too low. Previous levels of profitability won't be achieved with mergers and reorganization. Pricing will remain lower than [in the] past." Ton Klijn, director of the Euro- pean Association of Abnormal Road "Our industry is in dire need of consolidation to shore up pricing." Ton Klijn Director, ESTA Shutterstock.com

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