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We’ve been following recent plunges in the Baltic Dry Index—a measure or commodity shipping costs—because it’s near its lowest value since August 1986.Today Bloomberg reports that vessel operators have actually begun to transport goods for free and even cover some of clients’ fuel costs on infrequently traveled routes, in particular on “backhaul” trips that move a boat from the Pacific to the more highly trafficked Atlantic.
In particular, the report cites Glencore International Plc, which shipped grains to Europe using a ship operated by Global Maritime Investments Ltd according to Bloomberg. Global Maritime Investments not only offered the trip for free but actually paid $2,000 per day in fuel costs.
That beats the cost of repositioning the ship without carrying a load. Global Maritime could have paid as much as $50,000 per day for fuel on the voyage.
The Baltic Dry Index generally serves as an indicator of economic activity, however it has lost that role in the last few years because so many vessels that were ordered before the financial crisis began are only now being put to use.
European Union, as it turns out, actually has high lending exposure to the shipping index, another stress that could exacerbate its already shaking financial system. Analysts estimate that European banks have about $500 billion in shipping loans on their books, and it would cost them about $100 billion to restructure them.
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