Bulk carriers – kings of oceans and ports

By Marek Grzybowski

The commercial fleet for the transport of dry bulk cargo (over 20,000 dwt) currently numbers over 11,300 units with a deadweight capacity of over 940 million tonnes. The fleet of oil tankers for the transport of crude oil exceeds 60,000 dwt. dwt is currently 2,192 units, with a carrying capacity of 442.11 million tons – says Banchero Costa. The fleet capable of transporting containers includes over 6,900 ships with a deadweight capacity of over 350 million tonnes, according to Alphaliner data.

So bulk carriers are at the top of ocean transportation. Banchero Costa reports that at the beginning of 2024, approximately 22.4% of bulk units are Handysize (2,532). The Supramax fleet consists of 3,709 units, which constitutes 32.8% of the global bulk carrier fleet. 3,235 units are Panamax/Post-Panamax for 28.6% of the vessels and 1,846 Capesize/VLOC units are for 16.3%.

China – over 2,700 bulk carriers
Vessels Value data from February this year. show that China is the largest owner of bulk carriers in both volume and value. The Chinese fleet numbers 2,721 bulk cargo vessels and its market share is approximately 20%. Because much of this fleet is relatively new, the fleet’s total value is estimated at $57.7 billion.
Greece, with a fleet of 2,430 bulk carriers, ranks second with 18% of the number of ships. The Greek bulk carrier fleet ranks third in value with a share of around 16% and a value of USD 50.7 billion.
Japan is in third place, with a fleet of bulk carriers of 1,909 ships. For this reason, the market share of Japanese operators is approximately 13%. However, due to its relatively young fleet, Japan ranks second in terms of its value. Vessel Value analysts estimated it at USD 50.7 billion.
The above statistics are also the result of the operators’ investment activity. In 2020, the acceptance of bulk carriers with a carrying capacity of over 20,000 tons reached the highest level. Then, 440 units with a deadweight capacity of 47.14 million tons entered the oceans. In 2023, the number of receipts decreased to 378 units (31.29 million dwt). – In 2024, we expect approximately 385 units with a deadweight capacity of 28.3 million dwt after taking into account slippages and cancellations [from contracts – Ministry of Economy] – informs Banchero Costa and announces that “The order portfolio for 2024-2026 is moderate.”

Over 1,200 bulk carriers in the shipyard’s portfolio
Currently, 1,231 bulk carriers are on order. Within the current order book, the Chinese company BoComm Leasing is the largest contracting company, says Rebecca Galanopoulos Jones, senior content analyst at Veson Nautical in “Splash”. A Chinese investor has placed contracts for 30 bulk carriers worth USD 1.3 billion in Chinese shipyards. Most of the contracts are Supramax vessels.
In terms of value, CMB.TECH currently ranks first in the ranking of the most expensive orders for bulk carriers, worth USD 1.8 billion. The investor informs that CMB.TECH’s portfolio includes a contract for 20 modern bulk carriers of 210,000 tons. dwt. The hulls have been designed to ensure optimal operational performance and fuel economy. Newcastlemax bulk carriers have a unique space design for the propulsion system. They are ready for modernization. The space has been designed in such a way that it will be possible to install devices enabling the use of ammonia as a fuel without loss of cargo capacity – assures CMB.TECH and emphasizes that “A wide range of energy-saving devices have also been installed on the ship.”

Bulk cargo trade volume was positive in 2023. In the January-December 2023 period, global iron ore supply increased 5.1% y/y to 1,631.9 million tonnes, based on AXS Marine vessel tracking data. Iron ore loads from Australia increased by 0.9% y/y and from Brazil by 7.9% y/y. In January-December 2023, global coal trade increased 5.8% y/y to 1,339.5 million tonnes, based on AXS Marine vessel tracking data. Iron ore cargoes from Indonesia increased by 10.2% y/y and from Australia by 4.6% y/y.

The bulk carrier fleet continues to grow
In 2023, the fleet increased by +2.8% net year-on-year. In the period January-December 2023, contracting activity remained at a high level. The number of bulk carriers sent to shipbreaking yards in 2024 is expected to increase to approximately 94 units (approximately 7.69 million dwt).
In the period January-December 2023, at least 82 ships with a deadweight capacity of 5.89 million tonnes were sent to scrap yards, says Banchero Costa and forecasts: “It is expected that the net increase in the fleet of all bulk carriers with a deadweight capacity above 20,000 tonnes will result in t will remain at around 2.2% year-on-year in 2024.
In 2025, the increase will be lower, at the level of approximately 1.9% in 2025. The estimates were made based on the contract portfolio and expected delays in production and acceptance, as well as announced scrapping.
In terms of the secondary market, Greeks were the main buyers of bulk carriers in 2023, spending $4.4 billion on 213 bulk carriers. “Last year, Japan was the largest seller of bulk carriers, receiving an impressive $3.7 billion for 170 ships sold,” says Galanopoulos Jones. China took second place, followed by Japan with a very noticeable advantage of Turkish operators in fourth place.
sources: Banchero Costa, Vessels Value, Alphaliner, AXS Marine