Germany’s shipping industry faces a wave of bankruptcies over coming months as funding dries up and deepening economic woes across the world cause a sharp contraction in container trade.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard 10:04PM BST 13 Aug 2012
Over 100 German ship funds have already shut down as the long-simmering crisis in global container shipping finally comes to a head. A further 800 funds are threatened with insolvency, according to consultants TPW in Hamburg.
They are not alone. Britain’s oldest shipowner, Stephenson Clark, dating back to 1730, went into liquidation last week, closing the final chapter of Britain’s coal trade and the industrial revolution.
It cited “incredibly depressed” vessel rates. The firm over-invested in the boom four years ago, betting too much on the China syndrome.
Germany is the superpower of container shipping, controlling almost 40pc of the world market. The Germans also misread the cycle and have been struggling to cope ever since with a legacy of debt and a glut of ships. Now everything is going wrong at once.
Container volumes arriving at European ports plunged in June, dashing expectations of a summer rebound. Imports fell 7.5pc from North America and 9pc from Asia. Flows into the Mediterranean region crashed by 16pc, reflecting the violence of the recession in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
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Editor: You can check out the world wide Harper Petersen (HARPEX) Index here. It is an indicator of the cost of hiring container ships on the world market (i.e. Finished goods). Check out the Baltic Dry Index (BALDRY) here. It is an indicator of the cost of hiring ships carrying dry goods across the world's oceans (i.e. Raw materials)