Navios Maritime group head Angeliki Frangou used a company dinner at Greece’s National Gallery to paint a positive picture of the road ahead for shipping.
The chief executive of New York-listed Navios Maritime Holdings and Navios Maritime Partners, which span the bulker, container ship and tanker sectors, said her optimism boils down to one thing: tonne-miles.
She acknowledged that the global geopolitical and macroeconomic backdrop is more uncertain amid a Covid-19 recovery that is still not complete in Asia and the fallout from the “tragic” war in Ukraine.
“In terms of future prospects, I am optimistic,” she said. “But I wish it were for different reasons.”
Frangou said the worst of the pandemic is fading in the West, and consumer behaviour, which shifted from goods to services during Covid-19, is returning to normal. Expenditure is growing in travel, entertainment and other services.
But in the East, she said, China continues to struggle with its zero-Covid strategy.
The Ukraine conflict and the sanctions against Russia that have resulted from it are accelerating inflation and the rise of interest rates, Frangou added.
“It is impossible to know what this all means. There are two many possible consequences to digest and analyse,” she said.
But Frangou said that in shipping, people look through the lens of tonne miles.
“In this limited sphere, we are very optimistic,” the chief executive said.
Her positive outlook was rooted in two factors: shifts in manufacturing in the wake of Covid-19 and changes in commodities trade lanes as a result of the Ukraine war.
The pandemic highlighted weaknesses of just-in-time manufacturing, and that has resulted in a move to what she described as a “just in case” approach that should result in more tonne miles.
And she pointed to the Russian supplies of natural gas and oil that Europe relied on, as well as wheat supplies from the country and Ukraine, that now must come from further away.
“The displacement of established supply has not only increased the price, but it has increased the tonne miles,” she said.
“We do not see this easing any time soon, but we are watching very carefully.”