INDICATIONS suggest that operating costs have resumed their upward trajectory this year, having fallen last year for the first time since 2002, Richard Greiner head of shipping at accountants Moore Stephens told the Informa Ship Management Conference in Cyprus.
According to the Moore Stephens annual Opcost survey, published a few weeks ago, operating costs in 2009 fell on average by 2% for bulk carriers, 3% for tankers and 8% for containerships. This followed massive increases of up to 19% the year before during the shipping boom.
Mr Greiner said that feedback so far this year has indicated that operating costs overall are rising again in 2010, but more modestly than the average annual increase since Moore Stephens began its OpCost surveys in 2002. The nine-year annual average for bulk carriers and tankers and over seven years for containership is between 6% and 7%.
This indication was supported by a straw poll of the audience at the conference, the majority of which believed that operating costs are rising this year. A majority also suggested that crewing costs are rising again this year and will continue to do so.
Mr Greiner said that it is not surprising as there is a need to crew the additional vessels being delivered and last year represented a temporary respite. Indeed, crewing is the cost with the biggest persistent cost pressure, which at about 45% represent the biggest single operating cost category.
Similarly he commented that the sharp fall in repair and maintenance costs last year could represent a one-off opportunity to reduce the costs of one of the few areas of discretionary spending that can be cut in the face of budgetary pressures., but which cannot continue without causing longer-term problems.
He stressed that although operating costs fell in 2009, the overall reduction was relatively modest, and small compared with rises in previous years.