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Supply Chain

Supertanker rates bounce back — stocks don’t




The tanker sector refuses to follow its script. Rates were supposed to keep on sinking into the summer. They didn’t. Rates for very large crude carriers (VLCCs; tankers that carry 2 million barrels of crude oil) have jumped well off recent lows, to nearly double last year’s rate.

VLCC spot rates have not been this high at this time of year since 2015. And yet, crude-tanker stocks continue to languish.

Rates on the rise

According to Clarksons Platou Securities, VLCC spot rates averaged $35,500 per day on Thursday, up almost 50% week-on-week. Some individual VLCC spot fixtures in recent days are even higher, near $50,000 a day.

Rates for Suezmaxes — tankers that carry 1 million barrels of crude — averaged $14,400 per day, up 32% week-on-week.

“Rates are not falling to OPEX [operating expense] levels like some predicted,” Jefferies analyst Randy Giveans told FreightWaves. OPEX for a VLCC is around $8,000-$10,000 per day and cash breakeven, including debt service, is roughly $25,000 a day, he added.

“The jury is out on whether the upward spiral will continue, but the summer looks much brighter now than it did a few days ago,” said shipping brokerage Fearnleys in its weekly market report.

What’s driving rates up?

Extreme congestion at Chinese unloading terminals is one driver of VLCC rates.

Argus Media reported that “most storage tanks around Qingdao port are full. … The pipeline system is also struggling to cope … [and] crude is being forced onto the rail system and the roads.” In Dongjiakou, it said there are “lengthy queues” for the sole VLCC berth. Given congestion, VLCCs are being rerouted to Tianjin and Ningbo, where cargoes have to be unloaded onto smaller vessels first to dock at berths due to shallow waters.

Evercore ISI analyst Jon Chappell (Photo: John Galayda/Marine Money)

“China congestion is certainly playing a role but there is never one answer,” explained Jon Chappell, analyst at Evercore ISI.

He told FreightWaves, “Floating storage levels are still elevated, so when you throw in port congestion, there are logistical issues that distort the actual tradeable fleet.

“Add the hope that Venezuelan-related sanctions could remove more capacity and owners have a bit more confidence in VLCCs than in other segments. In addition, U.S. exports have remained somewhat elevated,” Chappell said.

According to Giveans, “Incremental cargoes out of the U.S. and West Africa are helping rates, despite the drop in cargoes out of the Middle East Gulf. Congestion in China is adding to the duration of voyages, which tightens the market.”

Tanker stocks languish (except one)

With the notable exception of Nordic American Tankers (NYSE: NAT), this year’s rate strength has yet to translate into equity strength.

The floating-storage thesis dates back to early March. Rates began surging after Saudi Arabia opened the spigots after disagreement with Russia. Excess oil supply collided with coronavirus-stricken demand, forcing floating storage that tied up tanker capacity.

FreightWaves plotted the stock performance of the top listed crude-tanker owners versus each other as well as compared to the general stock indices from March 2 through Thursday.

The tanker stocks were up around 30% on average by late April compared to early March. NAT then completely pulled away from the pack, outperforming the others by roughly 50%-70%. As of Thursday, NAT was up 33% from March 2 while other tanker stocks were down on average by 16%.

The other stocks are: DHT (NYSE: DHT), Eurovan (NYSE: EURN), Frontline (NYSE: FRO), International Seaways (NYSE: INSW), Diamond S (NYSE: DSSI), Teekay Tankers (NYSE: TNK) and Tsakos Energy Navigation (NYSE: TNP).

NAT has also far outperformed the general indices. The Dow and S&P are roughly flat during the period, while the NASDAQ is up 17%, about half the gain of NAT. The basket of tanker stocks excluding NAT outperformed the main indices through the first week of June. Since then, it has increasingly underperformed the indices.

stock chart

Chappell of Evercore ISI has previously attributed the outperformance of NAT to its popularity among retail investors on the Robinhood platform and its unpopularity among institutional investors. Other tanker stocks that were popular with institutional investors fared worse, he speculated, because institutional investors took profits on those equities as they rose due to floating storage and “faded the rally.” NAT shares faced no such cap.

The rest of the summer

Asked about rate prospects for the rest of the summer, Chappell responded, “VLCC rates will always be volatile. I think we’ll likely see them below breakeven at some point this summer, but mostly in the $20,000-$40,000-a-day range.

“OPEC+ is supposed to remove 2.7 million barrels per day of [production] cuts starting in August. If that happens, there’s the short-term potential to break out above that range. But generally speaking, the drawdown of global inventories — both offshore and onshore — should continue to be a headwind.”

“We think rates are sustainable but will likely be range-bound in July and August,” said Giveans.

Could COVID spur another rate spike?

Michael Webber, founder of Webber Research & Advisory, has previously argued that tanker stocks could emerge as a “COVID-19 global-relapse hedge.” If the virus proliferates, another wave of large-scale business lockdowns would extend the floating-storage period and limit destocking, keeping more tankers out of the trading fleet for longer.

Jefferies analyst Randy Giveans (Photo: John Galayda/Marine Money)

Asked whether he believed a further surge in COVID cases could extend or add to floating storage, Giveans said, “I doubt we will see a similar spike in rates or in floating storage as we saw in March and April.

“That said, I do expect the contango [in crude pricing] to widen in the coming months.”

“And there is certainly concern about a second wave and slower-than-expected economic growth,” said Giveans. “That’s why the tanker equities remain at these oversold levels.”

According to Chappell, “Our macro team believes that even in a second-wave [COVID] scenario, we will not see the type of economic shutdowns that occurred in April and May.

“Given weaker overall demand, you need those types of extreme events — like oil demand dropping by 25-30 million barrels per day — for ‘supercontango’ and floating storage. So, we believe [floating storage] inventories will unwind and transport demand will be pressured in all but the most extremely and unlikely COVID and economic environments.” Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Greg Miller 

MORE ON TANKERS: How retail investors on Robinhood could be skewing tanker stock performance: see story here. The COVID global relapse hedge theory of tanker pricing: see story here). For a look at the near-term headwinds facing the sector, see story here).


Supply Chain

Cutting Fleet Costs? Look at These 5 Metrics First




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Top 5 Fleet Metrics Proven to Cut Costs

There are thousands of metrics that can be used to right-size a fleet.  But do you know which ones will save you the most money and why?  Reducing costs and optimizing the use of vehicles is easy once you’ve identified the metrics that show you where to cut. By assessing vehicle utilization, fleet managers can identify opportunities to streamline and reduce costs through vehicle reassignments, reductions, and composition changes. But which metrics do you need and how will they help you save?

This new e-book takes the guesswork out of analyzing your fleet metrics and helps you drill down to cut where you need to while still achieving your mission.

By Agile Fleet


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Supply Chain

This Week in Logistics News (July 25 – 31)




logistics news

As my colleague Clint Reiser pointed out in last week’s news round-up, baseball is back. And while the season will look a lot different than in years past, it is back. At least until it isn’t. Unlike the NHL and NBA which chose to use bubble cities to contain the teams, baseball teams are still traveling for games. And while the league is somewhat limiting travel by only having teams play in their geographic division, this still means a lot of travel for players. And within the first week of the season, we had our first COVID-19 outbreak. The Miami Marlins have had 19 players test positive for the virus and their season is on hold. This has resulted in a number of other canceled games, with players wondering how this will all play out. Meanwhile, the other major sports league in the US, the NFL, has not chosen to operate in a bubble city either and training camps kicked off this week. This has resulted in players across the league opting out of the season due to coronavirus concerns. Obviously, we have no way of knowing how the bubble locations will work out for the NBA and NHL, but it will be interesting to see if it makes an impact on whether a season can finish. I’m not holding out much hope for baseball or football, or really sports in general this year. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

logistics news

The US Postal Service has faced an uphill battle as it continues to lose money. Now, the USPS has reached an agreement in principle to receive a $10 billion loan from the US Department of the Treasury under the CARES act, which the agency projects will keep it solvent at least until May 2021. The USPS said its board of governors unanimously approved the loan agreement Tuesday, which will be finalized in the coming weeks. In an effort to retain regular shippers the agency has rolled out its first loyalty program. Under the program, business customers can earn $40 in credits for every $500 spent on Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express postage through its Click-N-Ship program. They can apply the credits to subsequent purchases of those products at checkout. Credits expire one year from the date of issuance.

logistics news

Members of the local Yaqui indigenous community who are demonstrating for better land rights, have blocked railways used to move auto parts, as well as grains and steel, from Sonora to the United States. As a result, Ford’s Mexico unit has said that operations at its Hermosillo plant in the same state have been affected. Additionally, Ford said that the blockades is hitting imports and exports to and from the US. The blockade has hit both the Mexicali-California and the Nogales-Arizona border crossings, and so far has prevented the passage of 15 trains carrying about 150,000 tons of cargo, according to the Mexican railways association AMF. AMF President Jose Zozaya said the association has been in talks with the government and protesters, and that he is confident the situation will be resolved soon.

Post-Brexit trade plans for the UK and European Union have hit all sorts of snags. Now, there is another hurdle that will need to be navigated: pallets. Pallets have been the unsung hero of global trade for nearly a century, but new regulations are threatening a pallet shortage. Starting January 1, 2021, wooden pallets moving goods between the UK and EU will need to comply with ISPM-15, an international rule that requires them to be baked to 56 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes to prevent the spread of pests and diseases. The head of the UK’s Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation has warned that Britain won’t have enough that comply with the rule, and that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted its efforts to plug the shortfall. This will be a serious obstacle to overcome considering that as many as 100 million pallets move between the UK and EU each year.

One result of the coronavirus pandemic has been a surge in consumer purchases of items such as baking mixes and soups. While this has been beneficial to manufacturers of these items, it has also caused a lot of stress on their supply chains. General Mills now plans to boost the number of outsourcing manufacturing partners and suppliers by as much as 20 percent from pre-pandemic levels. The company has 24 manufacturing plants in the US and generally uses third party manufacturers to produce about 30 percent of its products. General Mills’ factories are running at full capacity but are not equipped to handle the surge; the company said US meals and baking sales rose 75 percent, while cereal sales rose 26 percent. While bringing on new partners will help capacity restraints, it is not a simple process. The company has said that it takes about six to eight weeks to vet a new manufacturing partner.

The US possibly has the most COVID-19 testing capacity in the world but is falling short in getting results quickly. The main issue here is a supply chain bottleneck when it comes to testing facilities and labs getting their hands on the appropriate chemical kits and tools. There are a few companies that dominate the market and their machines run on chemical kits and disposable plastic parts that only they sell. The result is that with so many requests coming in for their equipment, they do not have the capacity to handle all the requests. US labs now run about 800,000 diagnostic tests daily, according to the COVID Tracking Project. But the United States needs 6-10 million tests per day, by various estimates.

More and more cities and countries around the world are looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions in congested city centers. Dublin is the latest to look at ways to combat air pollution and congestion. The city is piloting mini urban distribution centers and powered walkers and quad cycles to enable city center deliveries that don’t contribute to local emissions or congestion. The pilot is funded by Dublin City Council, Enterprise Ireland, and Belfast City Council. The system was developed as part of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) challenge, which sought new approaches to optimizing deliveries. Through this, design and manufacturing consultancy Fernhay developed the containers, bikes, and walkers for global logistics carrier UPS to trial. The vehicles will enable workers to deliver goods such as groceries, medicine and parcels.

The coronavirus lockdown has seen a spike in online grocery shopping worldwide. In the UK, stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Ocado have seen incredible growth. As a result, Amazon is now offering free grocery deliveries to Prime members in London and the surrounding area to compete with traditional grocers. Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery delivery service, will offer same-day delivery in most areas on orders over £40 ($51.51) placed before 9 p.m. The minimum order value has also been lowered to £15 ($19.32). Prime members in Greater London and parts of the southeast of England can get free delivery in two-hour windows on all orders over £40 ($51.51), or pay £3.99 ($5) for delivery in a one-hour slot.

Online grocer FreshDirect is making a move from its traditional next-day delivery model to launch same-day delivery. The company is partnering with technology firm Fabric to open a micro-fulfillment center at one of the grocer’s Washington, D.C.-area distribution facilities later this year. FreshDirect relaunched same-day delivery in New York City last month, rebranding it as FreshDirect Express. The Washington, D.C. on-demand service will be the first time the grocer will be using a micro-fulfillment center.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble.


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6 Examples of How 5G Will Improve IoT Deployments




Illustration: © IoT For All

With digital transformation in full swing, the number of connected devices is increasing at a fast pace. IDC Data predicts 152,200 connected IoT devices every minute by the year 2025. While this translates to more data and, subsequently, more avenues to improve efficiency, a robust network is necessary for this data exchange. The fifth-generation wireless technology has features that will not only support high-speed mobile communication but also make IoT data transfer more efficient. Let’s look at these features in contrast with the existing 4G network:

  1. A higher band throughput
  2. 100 times faster than the current network
  3. 25 times lower latency (lag)
  4. The ability to support a massive scale for IoT communications. It is estimated to connect about 1 million IoT devices per square kilometer which is a thousand times more than now.
  5. A 90% reduction in power consumption, guaranteeing up to 10 years of battery life in low-powered IoT devices.
  6. Provide network slicing ability. In simple terms, network slicing means running multiple logical networks as virtually independent operations on shared physical infrastructure. Network slicing will give businesses the flexibility to design their network system according to their requirements, such as low latency over a higher bandwidth or more device connections over low latency.

All these features make the 5G network adaptable to the external environment, unlike its predecessors, which has limited network flexibilities.

Now that we know the capabilities of 5G let’s check how it will revolutionize various sectors when combined with the Internet Of Things.

Smart Manufacturing

5G will take Industry 4.0 to the next level. The extensive real-time data collected can improve quality control by identifying defects faster. The wide mobility, low latency, and high (mission-critical) reliability required in production automation and autonomous vehicle control in open-pit mining are only possible in the ultra-reliable 5G network. Also, in manufacturing setups, often radio links from traditional network layouts get blocked because of metal structures and barriers. A cellular-based positioning system deploys multiple Transmission/Reception Points (TRPs) within a facility which can interact with the machine from various directions. So, even if one path gets blocked, signals can come from other directions, creating a signal redundancy and preventing loss of communication.

In the wind and solar power sectors, IoT sensors, and devices, along with AI, are helping increase productivity through advanced weather forecasting and analysis. The intelligent tuning mechanisms automatically adjust control settings for varied weather.

Smart grids will manage energy loads more efficiently. A planned energy infrastructure based on regular data collected from IoT devices can help minimize downtime and energy costs.

All this involves the seamless transfer of an enormous amount of data through a network with minimal lag. Maintenance (both predictive and preventive) will also see higher efficiency with more data collection and lower latency.

Supply Chain

The supply chain requires a significant amount of manual supervision, especially during transportation to the warehouse and movements inside it. 5G will enable individual product level information through IoT enabled sensors as opposed to vehicle level details available today. This will make tracking and tracing of shipments easier. For perishable products, remote monitoring of trailer conditions like temperature and humidity will be possible. Inventory disposition, location, and re-routing will now happen in real-time with 5G enabled IoT trackers. 5G and IoT combined will provide an end-to-end view of the entire supply chain.


5G and IoT can improve the retail shopping experience by making it more personalized and contextual. An AI-powered fitting room with a screen could suggest similar outfits and matching accessories at the touch of a button. The customers will also be able to speak to the sales clerk and ask for other products instead of awkwardly shouting over the door. IoT enabled smart shelves can automate inventory management. They can provide real-time inventory data, build omnichannel customer relationships, and dynamically adjust prices depending on demand. The 5G network’s high speed and throughput will enable the processing of such massive data.

To get a glimpse of IoT-enabled automated stores, let’s look at the Amazon Go store. It has no cashiers or checkout system. Instead, shoppers have to download an app and scan on entry. One can pick up any product and simply walk out. Once out, the app’s automatic payment activates, and it emails a receipt of the purchase. The store has computer vision, deep learning, and shelf sensors, among other technologies to track what one picks up and what they keep back on the shelf.

Smart Cities

The basic premise of a smart city is connectivity and automation of its various resources, operations, and services. Today we use IoT devices in homes and commercial buildings. For smart cities, this technology should extend to public departments like water, electricity, gas, waste management, traffic monitoring, and even environmental services. 5G network will process this data quickly. It will also help streamline the autonomous car industry by enabling machine to machine communication with low-latency and high-reliability.

In 2012, the city of Barcelona in Spain started deploying IoT technologies across its urban systems, including transportation, energy, water, and waste management. By 2013, the number of Wifi hotspots had increased by 62% to 670 hotspots with a maximum distance of 100 meters from point to point, and the number of Wifi users doubled. In the energy sector, they installed 19,500 smart meters. The waste management system was updated with smart bins to monitor waste levels deposited by households and optimize the collection routes.

They modernized the transportation sector with digitized bus stops and parking systems. The amenities include real-time updates on bus locations, USB charging stations, free Wifi, and information on tools and apps related to the city. They embedded the vehicle parking spots with sensor systems that has helped reduce congestion and emissions significantly. The street lights have motion sensors to conserve energy. They remain dim and only brighten up when they pick up motion. The lamp posts also provide free internet and collect air quality data of the city.

For watering of parks, they use sensors to monitor rain and humidity and determine how much water it requires. A system of remotely controlled electro valves delivers that quantity of water across the city.

Self-Driving Vehicles

For self-driving vehicles to function correctly, it requires a lot of data exchange. Besides tracking temperature, traffic, weather, and GPS location, information about pedestrians and street fixtures (like lamp posts) also play a vital role. While IoT enabled sensors and devices will collect data, the 5G network will ensure efficient transfer of these to the vehicles with no lag. In fact, in the future, vehicles will communicate among themselves, eliminating the need for traffic signals. All this requires the development of Smart Cities and an extensive 5G network.


For healthcare, the amount of data generated is enormous. A single MRI scan or PET scan can be a huge file. Apart from this, there are other records like medication details, vitals, patient response to ongoing treatment, and so on. Often these records need to be shared among doctors and other medical professionals, which requires a network with high bandwidth and download speeds.

Telemedicine is steadily gaining popularity. A study by Market Research Future predicts telemedicine to grow by 16.5% from 2017 to 2023.

While this is a boon for people with limited access to medical facilities, it requires a network with high reliability and low latency to ensure the transfer of patient records and uninterrupted tele connection.

Even for patients with chronic illness or post-discharge diagnosis, remote monitoring is possible with IoT enabled wearables connected through the 5G network. This will provide mobility to chronic illness patients, free up hospital resources, and relieve doctors while still actively monitoring them in real-time.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and spatial computing scope will further improve with the combination of 5G and IoT. It will stimulate sophisticated medical sensors to generate more information.

For most service providers, end to end 5G infrastructure won’t be available on public networks until 2025–2030. But companies have begun building their 5G networks for specific uses and individual facilities to take advantage of the technology before the competition sets in. So, it may not be long before we see them in our everyday lives in retail stores, groceries, vehicles, and even public infrastructures.


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