Two quick questions with
Ms Leah Cook
How was your New Year’s celebration?
My New Year’s Eve was wonderful. It was filled with friends, fun and lots of delicious food! My husband and I hosted a small get-together at our house and it was nice to toast to the memories of 2019 and welcome in the new year 2020!
Do you generally have a negative, moderate or positive outlook for 2020?
The shipping markets, by and large, continue to remain dynamic and, unfortunately, very volatile. Overall though, we are optimistic about 2020, because we think that multipurpose operators and owners will have to confront supply and cost realities, which will lead to a recovery of the sector this year.
Multipurpose vessels are not just competing with other breakbulk and project cargo operators, but rather are competing with other types of vessel operators. In the project and heavy-lift sector, cargo types that have historically been carried on multipurpose vessels are, in some cases, can now potentially be carried by bulk carriers, container operators, and RO/RO vessels. Module carriers also have an impact on project cargo that was previously carried on multipurpose vessels. While there continues to be an important need and space for operators with multipurpose vessels and heavy-lift expertise, multipurpose owners and operators have been reluctant to accept the reality of the impact to supply arising from the competing sectors.
The supply reality should be reinforced by the recent transition to IMO 2020 compliant fuel. While owners and operators have been able to deal with the historical oversupply by working with banks and others to refinance assets or defer loan payments, higher fuel costs are not something that can be deferred to a later day. The sector has likewise squeezed operating costs to a level where there is not much more that can be done. The higher fuel costs, in conjunction with a realistic view about other sources of supply, should result in consolidation and contraction with the positive result of a rightsizing of the multipurpose fleet and sector. At US Ocean, we are positive about 2020 and beyond because of our service offerings.
As a US Flag operator, we are engaged with not only in the general international market, but we also carry cargoes that are financed by the United States Government. We continue to remain focused on providing innovative and flexible transportation solutions to our commercial and government customers. In 2019, we expanded some of our service offerings and capabilities to make the transportation process more seamless for our customers. We will continue to expand upon this in 2020. We have likewise broadened our network, which ensures reliability for our customers and positions the company for the future.
There have also been some very encouraging developments for US exports, which is an important market for us as a US-based company and a US flag operator. Paramount amongst these developments is the historic seven-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. A fully functioning EXIM Bank will help to promote U.S industry and interests in the international arena. EXIM financed projects often buy large sophisticated pieces of equipment from the U.S. which are perfect for carriage on our fleet of multipurpose ships.