Diederik Legger

Marstrat shipbuilding


Diederik Legger |

Turkey; where east meets west, where ancient meets modern, but also where maritime recovery meets continued struggle for the countries shipyard industry.

Shipping is a global industry. Turkish shipowners are benefitting from the gradual improvement in some (but definitely not all!) main shipping sectors but the shipbuilding industry is still lagging behind.

Turkey is among the top-ten shipbuilding nations. The Turkish shipbuilding industry is strategically important for Turkey because of the contribution it makes to the national economy. In addition, as one of the country’s core industries, it has a positive effect on deficit reduction efforts by bringing foreign currency into the country and driving employment. The government wants to boost the national export and import volumes to 500 billion USD each by the year 2023.

But the financial crisis that started 10 years ago had a major negative impact on the Turkish shipbuilding industry. And the sector is recovering only very slowly. To overcome the negative consequences of the global economic crisis, the Turkish shipbuilding industry is trying to take measures to tackle the overcapacity problem. In particular, it has begun to economise and merge shipyards. Furthermore, Turkey is leaving the commodity markets and has focus to build specialised types of vessels rather than the standard ship types in response to market demand and trends.

Because, much like other shipbuilding nations, Turkey is lagging behind China, South Korea and Japan in terms of output, especially so with larger ship types such as bulk carriers, tankers and containerships. Turkish shipyards will focus on the construction of smaller-tonnage chemical and oil tankers. In the mega yacht segment, Turkish yards produce an annual volume worth 300 million euros, taking third place globally.

Arklow Valliant - Photo by Ruud Aantjes - Navingo

The general cargo fleet : A long tradition of survival within the Dutch-German niche market

Diederik Legger |

Photo General cargo fleet by Ruud Aantjes, Navingo

“You will never see a seagull following a ship from Groningen”. This funny line refers to the tradition of never throwing anything overboard, and consuming every resource. In other words: a rather Calvinist attitude to saving costs, and keeping things as simple as possible. This is, in short, the world of the Dutch general cargo fleet. Surviving every crisis by tightening the belt, and thus building up a successful tradition of Dutch seamanship. Marstrat dives into the world of this specific dry cargo segment.

The Dutch general cargo fleet consists of a range of ship types. Typically they are relatively small ships, decreasingly ice classed, geared with cranes, especially in the larger segments. Single or tween decked, generally with box shaped holds and some vessels hold open hatch notation. In smaller sizes, sea-river type vessels are sometimes fitted with hydraulic wheelhouses in order to reduce air draft. All vessels are fit to purpose  to fulfil the wish of charterers to serve specific markets. The total Dutch owned fleet consists of 1,985 ships, with a total cargo carrying capacity of 18 million dwt. A quarter of this fleet consists of general cargo and multipurpose vessels up to 20.00 dwt.

These small work horses of the maritime industry carry a range of cargoes within the bulk and breakbulk markets. As such they are an essential part of the logistics chain. The breakbulk that is transported includes forestry products from Scandinavia, grain from the Black Sea region, ores and minerals for the British market, fertilisers and big bags for North Africa. Special cargoes include pipes and wind mill blades, dredging material, steel tanks, coils and cranes and many more.

The European players

Marstrat : EU players in the GC-MPP market up to 20.000 dwt per April 2016The market of GC/MPP ships is dominated by players around the border of Groningen, a province in the North of the Netherlands. The largest player in this segment is Briese Schiffahrts from Germany, a shipowner that combines chartering with another big player form just across the border: W. Bockstiegel. Their BBC Chartering from Leer is responsible for the commercial management of a versatile fleet of medium-sized heavy lift vessels and general cargo ships. The second and third players are Dutch: Wagenborg Shipping and the combined fleet of Spliethoff Group. Another shipowner not mentioned here is Norwegian Wilson AS, with 80 vessels in this range.

The EU  fleet of 2,665 ships are owned by some 2,000 individual ship owners, with no single owner representing more than 10 per cent of the cargo volume. This means that the market is highly fragmented. In his reports on the European shortsea sector (Wagelaar, 2015), eminence grise Johan Wagelaar concludes that indeed this is the case. All efforts to come to a European consolidation have failed so far, although the recently announced merger between Navigia and Feederlines may be a first sign of  changing times.

Marstrat Table 2 : EU fleet size-age compositionEspecially in the smallest segments the effects of the fragmentation can be seen. There are some 1,200 vessels active in the market below 4,000 dwt. Their average age is 31 years, which is mainly caused by an overaged fleet below 2,000 dwt. Experts believe that this segment will disappear in time, being overtaken by port efficiency and multimodal alternatives. The market between 2,500 and 3,500 dwt however is interesting. There is a demand for these sea river type ships, but charters are too low to rationalise newbuilding costs. Table two shows the linear relationship between size category and age: the smaller the vessel, the older it is.

New designs

In spite of the tough market conditions (or should we state; inspired by tough market conditions?), there are however some examples of newbuilds,  the strategy differs from owner to owner. Wilson is building three ships at record low price levels in China, whilst Spliethoff’s Wynne & Barends is building the revolutionary ‘Lady A’ series at Groningen Shipyards. Arklow is building at Royal Bodewes.

Smaller ship owners active in the segments up to 3,000 dwt are studying new innovative designs. Conoship International is now working on improved performance vessels with their Cono Duct Tail technology. Trends are: lower installed power (<750 kw main engine), simplified and lighter constructions leading to a higher cargo capacity under the same ship dimension, and improved underwater ship designs. Shortsea shipping is not untouched by  seven years of crisis , however there may be light at the end of the tunnel. A number of factors point in that direction, such as;

  1. The earlier mentioned aging existing fleet. Vessels above 25 years of age are under increased focus from port state control, insurance companies, chartering clients and class societies, making it more difficult to trade these vessels.
  2. New and fuel-efficient designs, not only good for the environment, but (and for the ship owner probably a more convincing argument), good for the liquid assets of the ship owner.
  3. The appetite from the shipyards around the globe. Shipyards came through the initial years of the crisis rather well on the back of existing order books. These order books have in the meantime dried up, and yards are keen for new business, resulting in historically attractive newbuild prices.
  4. Finance. Banks have also learned their lesson from the crisis. A large number of restructurings and in some cases even foreclosures have left the banks more restrictive compared to the situation before the crisis. Now finance is a much more scarce resource, putting a natural lid on the risk of over contracting.

So after many years of downturn we cautiously look ahead  in a positive manner for the short sea sector. As long as contracting is controlled (and this seems to be the case due to the absence of easy financing possibilities), a more sustainable market equilibrium seems around the corner. It seems the seagulls will be chasing short sea vessels without much luck for the seagull for quite some time to come.

Marstrat General cargo fleet - Lady Anna - Photo by Frits OlingaMarstrat NL Ships

Photo by: Frits Olinga

This article was written by Marstrat’s Diederik Legger and was published in Maritime Holland Magazine, No. 3 May-June 2016

Marstrat Shipbuilding

Prosperous future for Turkish and Dutch maritime technology

Diederik Legger |
Full understanding and insight into Dutch and Turkish maritime expertise is a good start for cooperation between both maritime clusters. For this purpose Dutch government launched the 4Tune “ A prosperous future for Turkish and Dutch maritime technology ” program. Maritime consultancy Marstat is one of the participants that offer solutions to improve sustainable shipbuilding and shipping to the Turkish market. Solutions in relation to equipment packages, ship finance and ship building. Marstat’s efforts led to a successful inbound mission, development of a finance model and a design order for a 3000 dwt coaster.

During Europort 2015 Marstrat organised a two day inbound mission themed: ‘sustainable shipping in shortsea shipping’.  A delegation of 30 Turkish maritime specialists was introduced and familiarised with Dutch expertise on these subjects. Marstat organised several matchmaking activities with shipping companies and shipyards. Supported by presentations by experts from the shortsea shipping field.

Marstrat partner and ship finance expert Diederik Legger: “Whereas many segments of the shipping market are still in crisis, some owners in the short sea arena are interested in modern, more eco-friendly coasters. And many of the shipyards we talk to in Turkey are very keen to build these vessels, both for domestic and for international shipowners”.

Finance however is a challenge. Not only do most banks active in short sea shipping have a number of non-performing coaster assets on their books (so called ‘stranded assets’) which is putting the relevant shipping department under a lot of pressure. But also under the prevailing market conditions with depressed freight rates newbuilding projects cannot demonstrate a positive exploration of newbuilding short sea ships. Therefore the banks will in most cases refrain from financing coasters. This situation is expected to last until the market will ‘balance out’.

Marstrat´s conclusion is that this market is at the moment ‘in the doldrums’, many of the stakeholders; shipowners, banks, port authorities etc. subscribe to the need for greener short sea shipping. But to replace existing tonnage by more eco type vessels implies that existing vessels will have to be taken out of service. And taking out existing vessels comes at a cost, selling a coaster for scrap today is not likely to satisfy the bank loan, let alone recover the equity!

Marstrat is working with many stakeholders, owners, yards, banks, equipment suppliers and governmental agencies to try and break the deadlock, and to structure a finance solution that can facilitate the construction of environmental short sea vessels.