The slowdown in tanker ordering in the last few years could result in zero growth or even a shrinking fleet in 2019
The start of 2019 saw a rare super blood wolf moon: the year’s first full moon (wolf moon), the moon at its closest distance to the earth (super moon), and a total lunar eclipse (blood moon). This is the second of only three such moons this century. If you missed 2000 and 2019, the next is in 2037.
These events are not quite once in a lifetime, but are rare. The same can be said for years in which the tanker fleet contracts, and I have a feeling 2019 may be the tanker industry’s super blood wolf moon year.
For the global tanker fleet, the super blood wolf moon would be what economists term 'negative tanker fleet growth' in 2019. I had not realised this outcome was a possibility this year until I wrote the latest contracts and completions article for the February/March issue of Tanker Shipping & Trade.
Tanker deliveries in 2018 slowed down dramatically compared to 2017 due to a systemic reduction in ordering over years prior. A sustained drop in orders over a number of years leads to a potential scenario where the number of tankers leaving the fleet would not be replaced with newbuilding deliveries.
It's a rare occurrence but not once in a lifetime. Most recently, 10 years ago deliveries of all vessel types declined as a result of the financial crisis.
At that time, the global recession resulted in vessels being left uncompleted in shipyards when owners sought to delay delivery into a moribund market and for a while newbuilding slippage became one of the main topics of any shipping conference.
This year's potential zero-growth or contracting fleet looks to be a market correction.
No doubt someone can correct me, but I think we have to go back to the 1990s to see another instance of negative tanker fleet growth. I will be keeping an eye on the tanker fleet statistics as the year progresses and I will alert you should a tanker super blood wolf moon be on the horizon.