Baltic Exchange Council chairman Denis Petropoulos counselled tanker owners to take their time in making decisions on new tonnage at Riviera’s Tanker Shipping & Trade, Europe virtual conference
Featured as the spotlight interview at the conference’s opening, Mr Petropoulos addressed the subject of turning adversity into opportunity, taking views on what may lay in store for tanker markets in 2021.
Mr Petropoulos said he foresees a strengthening of environmental regulations with a degree of certainty he said will come as a relief to many shipowners.
"One of my predictions is the environmental lobby will gather a lot more momentum, they will be strong and start putting demands down, which shipowners have been waiting to hear – particularly from the authorities and the regulators who have been soft in giving messages," Mr Petropoulos said.
Mr Petropoulos acknowledged the numerous options for addressing environmental issues such as emissions, avoiding opinions on specific fuels or technologies and focusing on the impacts to trade. He said he believes trade in Europe, in particular, will be heavily impacted in 2021 across product and crude trades and ship types, with what he called strong and lasting changes.
In terms of the world’s ability to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Petropoulos said he foresees a strong second half to 2021.
"I think there will be a very strong recovery from recession in the second half of the year. And I do predict there will be a significant draw on tonnage, and I believe the energy markets will clamber back quite quickly. I don’t predict the oil price jumping particularly high, but there [will be] sufficient oil produced at good enough prices," he said.
Mr Petropoulos also stood firmly behind LNG as a fuel, saying the increased focus on environmental issues he believes is on the way will only improve LNG’s position in the market.
"I’m still a supporter of LNG," he said. "And my first prediction about a surge in environmental issues will bring the LNG market back on the map, big time."
"It is an important energy; it is clean. It is not as clean as some of the other suggested energies, but there is plenty of LNG available and I think… in the developing world, power stations will move to LNG in even greater numbers than they are now," he said.
Overall, Mr Petropoulos’ advice for shipowners was to slow down and take decisions calmly when choosing how and when to invest in tonnage in 2021.
"Don’t rush to build new ships just because you think there may be a void space," he said.
"Don’t rush to make decisions on what the next propulsion system might be for tankers. Simply follow the markets, look at your existing tonnage, look at replacing it in accordance with the original strategies. And I would go back to the Greek shipowners of many years ago who strategised their [vessels’] replacement very carefully. My tip is not to rush into new ships just for the sake of it."