Panamaxes

The main trades for Panamaxes are the “big three” of bulk coal, iron ore and grain – although one finds Panamaxes carrying other commodities, notably bulk phosphate, tapioca from Thailand (along with cape size vessels), and bauxite. Thus these vessels will be found worldwide, although their market divides into various regions: a) The Atlantic Basin b) The Pacific/Indian Ocean Basin c) From Atlantic to Pacific/Indian d) From Pacific/Indian to Atlantic. Of these it is usual to find the highest returns being paid for cargoes from the Atlantic to the Pacific/Indian Oceans with the lowest in the reverse direction, this imbalance created by normally higher freight levels for trans-Atlantic trades over trans-Pacific trades. A major trade route comprises that of grain from the US Gulf to Japan and this rate is a major contributor to the freight futures market operated by BIFFEX (The Baltic International Freight Futures Exchange) and a ready barometer of the health of the dry-cargo market. In recent years freight rates have fluctuated from as low as US $10.00 up to US $30.00 per ton for this particular trade and this alone serves as a ready indicator of the volatility of the dry-cargo freight market, and for Panamax rates in particular. Handy-Size: These are really two categories of “handy-sized” bulkcarriers – those around 20/30,000 dwt and those between 30/55,000 dwt. The larger category emulates the trading pattern of Panamax bulkers, but adds to its list of carriageable commodities the major trade of steels and scrap, and forest products. As a result, many of these vessels are relatively sophisticated, with a variety of deck gear of up to around 25 tonne cranes, etc. The smaller vessels have an even wider range of commodities and are in especial demand for regions of the world with restricted dimensions – e.g. the Great Lakes. There is no regular pattern for these smaller bulkcarriers as can be identified for their larger competitors, and they tend to be found in all parts of the world engaged in the carriage of any number of commodities. Around handy-sized bulkcarriers what is termed “parcelling” has developed, and frequently operators will hire ships of this type and size to load various commodities in adjacent holds from a variety of nearby ports to another, general destination – e.g. Australian minerals to Europe.