Shipping is never dull, and the moment you feel it might be is probably the time to seek a different career. Being in this industry gives those curious enough an advanced view from the bridge of geopolitical and economic forces shaping the world. Unquestionably the biggest news story of the year – the one that reframed most other developments – has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent reshaping of the global seaborne energy map.Much of 2022 has resembled the year 2001 when world shipping eagerly looked on, counting down the months to China joining the World Trade Organization. In the years that followed, the Chinese economy exploded and shipping made obscene profits. The fact is that in the 21st century there has been no more important country to shipping’s fortunes – whatever the sector – than China. Its incredible pace of urbanization, willingness to take on the factory of the world mantle, and then its growing middle class – all has created intense maritime trade to push the country to silver spot on the world economy podium. Think about this – in GDP terms the Chinese economy grew more than 14-fold from the start of the century through to last year, a scale and speed the like of which we will never witness again.
And here’s the thing, shipping has had to make do this year without the normal rocket China gives to earnings. China and its strict zero-covid policies through to this month have hampered industrial production, created enormous supply chain headaches as well as ensuring GDP growth at this giant nation will be the slowest recorded this century with the real estate market implosion being of particular note.It’s remarkable that given this slack growth shipping has prospered. The cross-sector ClarkSea Index, a decent weighted barometer assessing the overall health of the shipping sector, now sits at $34,133 a day, more than double the 10-year trend, with the average in the year to date standing at $37,600 a day, up 32% year-on-year – this is in no small part down to the dislocation and inefficiencies brought about by war in eastern Europe.
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