World Maritime News

WMNF 2018/10/18


IMF Dangerous undercurrents threaten global economy

One of the most comprehensive studies of the state of banking and markets since the financial

crisis warns that ‘dangerous undercurrents’ are rising threat to the world economy.

The International Monetary Fund’s ‘Financial Stability Report’ says that although banks are far safer than they were in 2008, there are new risks.

Trade tensions are growing, IMF says, and inequality has risen. Further moves toward a trade war could ‘significantly harm global growth’. Other threats to trade, such as disorderly Brexit, could also ‘adversely affect market sentiment’, the IMF argues.

To cool inflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. That puts pressure on emerging market economies such as Turkey and Argentina, which have large amounts of debt which concerns investors. The report says that outflows could hit US$ 100 billion over a year, about 0.6% of emerging market economies’ gross national income, which would be ‘of a magnitude’ similar to the financial crisis.

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At IMF meetings, China’s globalization agenda left behind in trade debate

In 2017 Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a forum on China’s vast Belt and Road effort, promising to spread Chinese investment and soft power through the world. It appeared his country’s global stature was rising. But now the luster on Beijing’s trade and investment story has dulled amid rising U.S. tariffs, higher interest rates and capital flight from emerging markets, all of which threaten to erode global growth. At the IMF and World Bank annual meeting in Bali, some of that sentiment spilled into the open. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde laid out what needed to be done. She did not mention China, but all those issues are charges frequently leveled by Trump Administration.

China is still a major political and economic power, but Chinese officials appeared more on the defensive through the week, with the tone of debate at some IMF forums shifting more quickly than Beijing may have expected. The debt burdens from the Belt and Road initiative came into sharper focus as Pakistan, a major recipient of Chinese-financed port, rail and road projects, formally sought an IMF bailout program during the Bali meeting. David Dollar, a former U.S. Treasury official and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who spoke on the panel, said that Belt and Road could reduce trade costs, but that more work needed to be done. ‘For low-income countries, there is really this risk of taking on too much debt even if the projects are very, very good’ Dollar said.

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Port planning faces increasing challenges

The Container Port Strategy report issued by OECD-ITF says the most competitive box ports of the future will be those that accommodate developments in container shipping efficiently, while successfully adapting to developments in the hinterland. The increasing size of containerships and the volumes of cargo that need handling has put huge stress on equipment and labor and let to high idling rates between ship arrivals. Terminal operators, port authorities and hinterland transport companies have to respond and often taxpayers cover the cost, according to the report. It says relocation of container ports to non-urban areas can be a viable option, but optimal decisions are very much case-specific and require a solid analysis of market prospects and costs and benefits involved.

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Bunkering hub Singapore readies itself for 2020

At the Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) held in Singapore at the beginning of October, several bunker suppliers and oil majors said they were ready to supply fuels that comply with the 0.5 % sulphur limit by the 1 January 2020 deadline.

The suppliers include Shell, ExxonMobil, and BP, all of which have a significant refining and/or trading presence in Singapore. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) will publish an information sheet, along with a list of licensed bunker suppliers of low-sulphur fuels in Singapore, by mid-2019.

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Shipping must unite for future growth, says PSA International chief

The liner shipping industry must end its divisive nature and embrace closer co-operation to stay viable in a changing market, according to PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng. The value of shipping can no longer be determined by scale alone, and its ability to leverage advanced technologies to improve efficiency and create added value was becoming increasingly important, he said, citing a recent UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2018. To PSA, one key product being developed as part of that solution is CALISTA, an acronym formed from Cargo Logistics, Inventory Streamlining & Trade Aggregation. The service is aimed at enhancing overall cargo flow and visibility, but more importantly, will connect ‘the community’ consisting of shippers, carriers, ports, financial institutions and regulators. The question is how can the industry effectively establish data standards to fully embrace the era of digitalization when no one wants a platform or industry ego systems to be controlled by major competitor.

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US lawmakers carve out scheme for offshore wind port hubs

The first major infrastructure bill to pass the U.S. Congress in two years includes an added bonus for American ports: a plan to identify at least three that have the potential to develop into major hubs for offshore wind projects.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 – which passed the Senate on 10 October with near unanimous support and awaits President’s signature – was praised by both port and dredging interests for the US$ 3.7 billion in federal funds authorized for 12 federal port dredging and flood projection projects.

The bill authorizes more federal money for the Georgia Port Authority’s Savannah Harbor Expansion Projects, as well as easing the ability to dredge the Delaware River for expansion of the Port of Wilmington. Beginning no later than a year after the bill is signed into law, the Secretary of the Army is to conduct a study of the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf Coast, West Coast, Great Lakes, and New England regions.

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