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Breakbulk February 2020

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14 The Journal of Commerce | Februar y 2020 Vessel Chartering Breakbulk & Project Cargo global head of marine chartering with forwarder Kuehne + Nagel, sees consolidation as a natural develop- ment, because vessels haven't earned healthy returns for so many years. Consolidation "limits players, but creates opportunities for people with ships," he said, adding that he would not be surprised by more consolida- tion among "second-tier" carriers. More than 'a mailbox' Strom said he also sees more shippers working directly with carriers now, rather than using inter- mediaries — i.e., forwarders and brokers. In the past, a shipper's logis- tics staff would have had to be able to sort and analyze 40 or 50 carriers, he said, and "it was more difficult as a skill set." Vessel owner/operator consolidation makes this task easier, he said, at least in theory. "If you can call BBC, Zeamarine, Cosco, AAL, or Chipolbrok and have 90 percent of the available [MPV/HL] fleet covered, then how hard is it to find a solution?" However, chartering takes more than just a Rolodex, Strom said. "It's not just a task-oriented job, it's knowledge-based," he said. The charterer must understand law and contracts, and how these apply to the operations to be undertaken. Skilled forwarders will understand From feast to famine Lack of exports, carrier consolidation driving MPV/HL ships out of US Gulf By Janet Nodar DESPITE CHRONIC OVERCAPACITY in the multipurpose/heavy-lift (MPV/ HL) fleet, finding tonnage in the US Gulf is a challenge, according to Lucas Strom, head of operations and chartering for the Americas with Denmark-based forwarder Blue Water Shipping. Carriers are avoiding the US Gulf due to a lack of exports such as soybeans, he said. "It used to be that BBC would have 20 to 30 ships in the Gulf, but no more [because] they have to bal- last out or take low-paying cargoes to reposition vessels," Strom told The Journal of Commerce. "It used to be easy to find five carriers, each with two ships that month, to fight over your business. Now there are just not as many ships around." Fleet consolidation in the MPV/ HL sector has also had knock-on effects — both good and bad — from the freight forwarder's perspective, Strom said. "You approach fewer people and have access to the same number of ships in the market. But you're losing your brokering capa- bilities. [In the past,] I could get better rates, terms, and conditions than I can today," he said. Cargo is king, theoretically, but "there's less cargo out there and you'd think [the carriers would] be killing for it — but there is also less competition," he added. "The consolidations have soaked up the ships." In the past, Strom worked with a distribution list of 35 to 40 carriers; now, that list is down to 15 to 20. "It's drastically different.... It's been an interesting shift over the last seven to eight years," he said. Falk Puetz, vice president and

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