Inaugural Geneva Dry conference attracts strong turnout

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Some 500+ delegates from over 250 companies attended the first two-day Geneva Dry commodities shipping conference held this week at the luxurious lakeside venue Hotel President in Geneva, on 2-3 May. The Swiss city may be landlocked but enjoys a pre-eminent position as a base for the trading of commodities.

In the market overview session, prospects were deemed relatively positive for the larger-size bulk vessels over the next couple of years with demand growth forecast at 4-5% in tonne mile terms and the supply side constrained.

For the smaller size ships, longer term prospects for smaller ships carrying minor bulks were judged to be ‘quite bright’, especially if continuing back/grey swan disruptive events continued, helping a return to better rates.

As SSY’s Global Head of Research Roar Adland pithily put it: “Anything that makes shipping more inefficient is good for shipowners.”

Warning notes were sounded about a slowdown in the Chinese economy, especially with its housing market stalling, while India was seen as a rising star on the demand-side due to its growing middle class and evolving consumer tastes.

The Indian market’s less prominent effect on tonne mile growth compared to China’s was pointed out, however, as was the huge discrepancy in the size of the respective markets: China currently accounts for 50-60% of the global consumption of industrial commodities, according to UNCTAD’s Director of the Technology and Logistics Division, Sashrika Sirimanne, compared to India’s 2-3%.

A highlight of the opening day was a session of shipbroking and the effect of digital platforms such as the Clarksons-backed Sea on the traditional role of the broker. Arrow CEO Jeremy Palin feared such ‘disintermediation’ could not replace the relationship of trust between principals and professional brokers, while Sea CCO Christoffer Svard saw platforms as enablers that could assist fixing by quick supplying additional information (such as a ship’s GHG rating) rather than disruptors.

Both days’ proceedings ended with networking receptions in rooms overlooking Lake Geneva, featuring signature cocktails specially concocted for the event featuring the ‘Geneva Dry’ brand of gin – a felicitous coincidence.

The Geneva Dry conference will take place again at Hotel President in late April 2025.

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