End of summer- cruisin’ around on shipping’s social media channels

As summer begins to fade (well, not really, it’s still very hot along the U.S. East Coast), I’ve been spending more time on social media, supplementing the shipping news that I get from the trade press and from in person events (remember those?). Actually, Capital Link has an excellent in person gathering slated for the second half of September, so hopefully some New York area readers (or travelers coming in from other shipping centers) will be able to shake hands with me. Such events are always excellent, and the paucity of such gatherings during the past two and a half years makes them even more welcome.

The social media postings (I hang around Twitter) are partly an extension of personal conversations, with a recent flurry- based on folks that I follow, talking about the Jones Act (where U.S. coastwise trade must go on vessels that are U.S. built, owned and operated). Of course, dialogues about prospects for various shipping sectors- and, by inference, prospects for listed companies serving those sectors, are ongoing. The conversations lately have concerned a study funded by a pro-Jones Act trade association that- surprise, surprise, were singing its praises. The consultants who produced the report (tied to one of the large accounting giants) specifically avoided a comparison of freighting costs between compliant and non-compliant vessels, so I zoned out. The tweets back and forth quickly devolve into imponderables such as the trade-offs between more expensive ocean-going vessels versus their national security benefits. Some of the postings lately have focused on energy- notably LNG for Puerto Rico (comes from Trinidad) and fuel oils for the Northeast where government bureaucrats have warned of potential shortfalls in the winter months. The keen ship-spotters at Bloomberg (might have been Reuters) have spotted some Jones Act MR tankers bound for New York area ports- an uncommon destination, which, in turn, launched the anti-Jones Act folks on a tirade about expensive oil for the Northeast. Meantime, I spotted at least one Jones Act MR tanker going down to Veracruz- presumably to load at Pemex’s Minatitlan refinery.

A related issue, with good coverage on Twitter, has the Biden administration urging refiners to restrict exports of fuels and refined products, with hurricane season (and midterm elections) coming up. I line up with advocates of the free market- while high gasoline and heating oil prices cause great pains in the wallet, I cringe at the thought of what the Washington D.C. wizards might do if they mess movements of oil and products cargoes. So bring on those Jones Act tankers coming farther up the coast than normal.

The Forward Freight Agreement (FFA) traders are also vocal on Twitter- sometimes parroting broker reports, though, honestly- even with some excellent graphics,  this social medium has not always brought more accurate forecasts compared to the chat rooms of old on Yahoo and similar. Media critiques aside, the big news seems to be a reversal of the downward trend in the drybulk hires; one Tweeter was noting that one widely followed index of Capesize hires had risen more than ever, in one day. Is this the beginning of a move upward? But the path was still unclear, with FFA traders being cautious.

While most of the Jones Act qualified companies (including the bigger hitters) taking the hits on Twitter are private entities, there is at least one intersection of the intersection of the Jones Act with shipping investments- that of Overseas Shipholding Group (ticker symbol “OSG”), which along with other tanker stocks has had a bit of a run upward lately (albeit of a more muted variety). For what it’s worth, I posted on Twitter that if there is indeed a trend of longer haul voyages up the coast for its vessels, that’s more tonne-miles, and that’s good for biz. And, yes, from my perch (this week) in Fort Lauderdale, I saw an OSG tanker headed “upcoast” for New York, and another anchoring locally before being diverted over to Freeport, Bahamas. All good for hires.