Ro-Pax market sees huge benefits from low bunker prices

A low oil market environment has shifted the dire fortunes of many Ro-Pax shipping companies, helping them cut costs and increase profitability at a moment when many were facing survival problems. According to a recent weekly report from shipbroker Intermodal, the oil price “crash” that started in 2014 was caused by a glut of practically unwanted oil. Producers had been providing the world with about 2million barrels a day more than what demand supported.

Intermodal’s SnP Broker, John N. Cotzias noted that “today oil is trading at its 12 year low, 70% down today since mid-2014. Low oil prices might be welcome by consumers and businesses, but economies, financial markets, oil and gas producers, are not on the same side of the table. We feel the need to focus on the present OPEC talks about a possible cut back in production so to lift prices off the low levels of today. Last week, Saudi Arabia and Russia the world’s biggest oil producers joined Venezuela, Kuwait and Qatar in an agreement to cap output. As per talks, all countries agree to cut back their respective production, with the prerequisite that this will be a unanimous decision by all”.

Cotzias noted however that “it is very uncertain if Iran would participate in such decision, as finally being in a post-sanctions era, the country will try to regain market share and that will surely involve growing production. True expectation from this action is to find a better equilibrium and to match supply with demand as today supply still exceeds demand and record global oil stockpiles continue to mount. A production freeze would not create an immediate price shock, however if an agreement comes into place soon, we should see oil prices correcting upwards sometime in the 2nd half of this year”.

“Moving on to our industry, it is no secret that tankers have been enjoying great rates because of increased oil demand, while they have been also benefiting from low bunker prices. Bulkers, despite suffering severely due to low freights, have pretty much found a lifejacket in the form of low bunker costs, although -something that is not often said – slow steaming is no longer slow, which in itself has been weighing down on rates. Although the effects of low oil prices on both tankers and bulkers have been widely discussed, little has been said for the positive effects that the Passenger and Ro-Pax sectors have been enjoying. About two years ago, bunker expenses where accounting for more than 65% of their voyage operating costs. Today that bunkers have been reduced by 70%, these costs represent about 20% of the present voyage costs”, said Intermodal’s broker.

He added that “needless to say that currently and without taking into consideration any increase in demand for their services nor any increase in car/truck and passenger traffic, these ships have had a significant improvement in their generated net profits. On top of that, there is a lack of tonnage available particularly in the 110-130m LOA size and also in the 2,000-2,500 passenger capacity and 2,000-3,000 lane meter garage space. Not many ships were built post 2000 as prevailing bunker prices then made operation of these ships marginally profitable or non-profitable at all. Values of existing ships have increased, as the cash flow generated is attractive and lacking any replacement candidates”, said Cotzias.

He went on to note the following: “to put it simply; the cost of replacement is practically the cost of building a new ship! All these factors have boomed the Ro-Pax business both domestically here in Greece as well as internationally and the prospects for this niche market seem very positive for the future times ahead. Interest is there to invest and also to build new ships based on LNG fueled and other innovative ship design developments”, he concluded.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

Source: Hellenic Shipping News