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Breakbulk April 2017

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APRIL 2017 10 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE BREAKBULK AND PROJECT cargo carriers keep hoping that recover y is on the horizon for their long-depressed market. Some analysts are cautiously optimistic. "I am more positive than I have been for some time. The last two or three years have been very difficult for this sector, but we do see improvement," said Susan Oatway, who follows the sector at Drewry Maritime Research. She sees a possible market recovery starting early next year. Not everyone is as positive. Carriers are still working off an oversupply of ships that were delivered after the 2008-2009 recession, which cut into global economic growth and fed a decline in prices of oil and other commodities that suppor t breakbulk and project shipments. The influx of new capacity and market softness coincided with heightened com- petition from bulk and container carriers that have targeted breakbulk commodities and oversize cargoes to help offset weak returns in their core markets. Vessel supply a nd ca rgo dema nd remain out of balance, and politicians' protectionist talk adds further uncer- tainty. But Oatway said the market could approach equilibrium by early 2018. Though demand growth remains tepid and uneven, new vessel orders have slowed as financing has dried up. Oat way a nd ot her a n a ly s t s a re cautious in their predictions, however. The breakbulk/project market is complex and difficult to define, and the industry's struggles haven't been distributed evenly. Drewry divides multipurpose vessels into three categories: Basic MPVs with lifting capability of under 100 tons, proj- ect carriers with lifting capability of 100 to 250 tons, and premium project carriers that can lift more than 250 tons. About two dozen ships can lift more than 1,000 tons. Operators of larger, more sophisticated ships with higher lift capability have weathered the depressed market better than have the operators of plain-vanilla multi-purpose vessels that generally are older and have no special features to offer customers. Virtually all of the new investment in the breakbulk/project sector is going to By Joseph Bonney SLOW AHEAD FOR CARRIERS Overcapacity and competition cloud the outlook for breakbulk and project cargo operators

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