Shipping confidence improved for the third successive quarter in the three months to end-November 2016, according to the latest Shipping Confidence Survey from accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens.
In November 2016, the average confidence level expressed by respondents was 5.6 out of 10, equalling the highest rating since August 2015. All main categories of respondent were more confident than in August 2016, when the overall rating was 5.4.
Charterers' confidence rose by 2 points, to 6.8, the highest figure in the life of the survey for such respondents. The confidence of owners was up from 5.3 to 5.4, of brokers from 4.5 to 5.6, and of managers from 6 to 6.4.
Geographically, confidence was up in Asia from 5.5 to 5.7, in Europe from 5.2 to 5.4, and in North America from 5.8 to 5.9.
Moore Stephens informed that a number of respondents felt that the bottom of the cycle had been reached and that the only way was up. Particular concern was expressed about overtonnaging, insufficient recycling, and the cost of regulatory compliance.
"This is the third successive increase in shipping confidence recorded by our survey. So despite overtonnaging, weak freight rates, declining demand, insufficient recycling, Brexit, Syria, Trump, despite everything, shipping is still looking up, rather than down," said Richard Greiner, Moore Stephens Partner, Shipping & Transport.
The number of respondents expecting finance costs to increase over the coming year increased from 35% to 53%, the highest level for five years as "major investment will be required over the next few years to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations," said a respondent.
"Many of our respondents felt that things can only get better. They are probably right. But for that to happen, freight rates will have to go up. Perhaps it is safer to say for the moment that, if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change," Greiner said.
The number of respondents expecting higher rates in the tanker market over the next 12 months rose by ten percentage points to 33%, the highest figure since August 2015, while the number anticipating lower tanker rates fell from 37% to 24%. At the same time, there was a three percentage-point rise, to 41%, in the numbers anticipating higher rates in the dry bulk sector. In the container ship sector, the numbers expecting higher rates rose from 22% to 27%, but there was a five percentage-point increase, to 21%, in those anticipating lower rates.