Shipowners have just experienced the second-best half-year on record as most markets prospered against a background of geopolitical upheaval.

Clarksons Research managing director Stephen Gordon said the “exceptional” six months had followed a period of resilience and then strong recovery in recent years.

The cross-segment ClarkSea average of shipping rates hit $38,844 per day for the period, up 7% from the second half of 2021 and 157% above the 10-year average.

The figure is only just below the record £39,129 per day logged in the first six months of 2008.

“With geopolitical turmoil added to Covid-19 disruption, shipping has again been placed at the centre of global events,” Gordon said.

The 2022 figure was skewed somewhat by container ships, where charter rates rose to another record of $85,731 per day.

But nearly all markets are well above trend, Clarksons Research noted.

Bulkers have eased back to $24,440 from $32,519 in the preceding six months.

Gordon describes the world economy as a “concern”, but a small orderbook and potential for some Chinese stimulus is more encouraging.

Tanker numbers were buoyed by a very strong performance on products, but held back by VLCCs.

The average was $25,698 per day, up from three consecutive quarters of below $10,000.

Cargo volume forecast revised down

Car carriers, supported by congestion, have hit all-time highs and LNG term rates are “unsurprisingly above trend”, said Gordon.

Offshore support vessels have also recovered, reflecting an encouraging outlook in utilisation.

But Gordon added: “As macro-economic headwinds and inflation pressures build, seaborne trade growth has slowed below trend and needs monitoring carefully.”

He is now projecting trade of 12.2bn tonnes this year, down from a 12.4bn forecast at the start of 2022.

“For shipping there are some mitigating factors,” the managing director said.

“Tonne-mile growth is still close to trend, reflecting changing trade patterns of European imports Russian exports; congestion remains elevated tying up capacity; and a complex sanction regime has created further inefficiencies,” he added.

The global fleet grew 1.4% in the period to reach 1.51bn gt or 2.2bn dwt, with the world’s merchant ships now worth 10% more at $1.4 trillion.

“So strong cash flow in most segments but plenty of uncertainties to ponder,” Gordon concluded.