Dry bulk vessels have faced extreme distress in recent years. With a combination of factors including newer vessels being ordered with up to 5-year lead times and oil and commodity prices falling globally, owners have been left in precarious waters. Many did not anticipate the crash of commodities followed by oil falling to new lows (spot Brent at $45 a barrel) making it even more difficult to service either debt on existing vessels and associated dry dock fees, or to actually take ownership of their new vessels. As such, there is too much old tonnage on the waters floating around that warrant maintenance and work, compounded with many unclaimed new vessels awaiting transfer of ownership.

Banks have long held out on calling in such debts and preferred to explore restructured payment terms. This was evident with major banks who have inadvertently falsely propped up the Panamax market and slightly smaller bulk carrier vessels by extending finance terms rather than facing negative equity and repossessing the vessel.

Regretfully many of these decisions simply delayed the inevitable and by the time arrests or repossessions took place, the market had fallen even further. In the last 6 months alone, leading African auction house Clear Asset who specialize in commercial maritime and mining assets, have disposed of 4 such carriers. The vessels ranged in size from 7,000 tons up to 80,000 gross tons.

Comments Clear Asset MD Ariella Kuper, "It has been interesting to see that despite a depressed market the bidding has proven extremely strong, with parties from as far as Greece, Cyprus, Abu Dhabi, UK, Liberia, West Africa and Singapore bidding competitively. The auction sale of two recent ships, the mv Sadan K and mv Zeyenp K, both 80,000 GRT, achieved $1 million above reserve for each. A smaller 8,400 GRT, the mv Giuliana with 7,222 max draft, achieved $1.65 million which was $250,000 above reserve."

South Africa has become a global player for arrested vessels and is attracting strong bidding appetite from abroad. The prices being paid are based on free market demand and supply, and with competitive bidding it is a fair indication of the value that the market places. What is strong to witness is the new players entering the ship trading game, who are in a financial position to settle payment within 5 days votes toets.

Adds Kuper, "Out of adversity comes opportunity for a new generation of maritime players to enter the game with a more sophisticated 21st century understating of prevailing market conditions.''

Source: Clear Asset