In keeping with the broadly bearish trends across the northern European trades, the trans-Baltic rates have been declining with more or less steady progression with the high teens of early May fading into the middle teens of end-May and owners now happy to accept €15-16/mt range freight rates on general cargoes from the Baltic States to ARAG even as other hold out for last-done rates in the €16-17/mt range. Holidays and summer sluggishness have been the usual culprit for lower cargo demand, but the systemic slowdown around the global pandemic have given nearly every single sector of the European manufacturing economy plenty of reason to justify an increasingly negative bent in momentum for the early-to-mid summer season. Owners and charterers—let alone market observers—have been reporting a wide range of freight values simply because there is so much space opening between demand for ships and available tonnage. There continues to be word of northbound freights in the range of €20/mt from the Adriatic to Ireland, but even there we hear word of owners claiming to be willing to accept €18/mt or thereabouts, the sort of rate that would have been unthinkable for a voyage with half of that duration just six weeks ago. The phrase ‘new normal’ has been overused by every analyst of the shipping economy, but conditions do seem to have entered an unknown reality that require exceptional solutions to address exceptional challenges.
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