Shipping markets have begun 2022 more strongly than in any other year on record, according to Clarksons Research.

The UK research company identifies trade recovery, severe congestion and modest fleet supply growth as boosting rates, while the impacts of the Ukraine war are also starting to feed through.

Analyst Sarah Holden called 2021 a remarkable year, and said the positive earnings environment has continued so far in 2022.

“While demand-side headwinds are building, a range of supportive drivers — e.g., congestion — are continuing to provide market upside, and across 2022 to date our cross-sector indicator of vessel charter earnings, the ClarkSea Index, has registered its strongest start to a year on record,” she said.

Last year saw the highest annual average for the ClarkSea Index since 2008 — at $28,700 per day.

Holden said the first 15 weeks of 2022 have seen the index average $36,507 — double the 10-year average.

This is the best start since the company began keeping records more than 30 years ago.

The index has also generally trended upwards during the year so far, reaching $40,000 per day. This is in the top 2% of values since 1990.

And, in recent weeks, the index has approached very close to post-2008 financial crisis highs of $42,600 per day seen in mid-October 2021.

Tanker rebound

“While no individual week has yet surpassed these levels, overall the six weeks between early March and mid-April have reached a new milestone, with the highest average ClarkSea Index for any six-week period since 2008,” Holden said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has chiefly provided support in the tanker sector over recent weeks, as tonne-miles increased and cargo owners paid up for Russian loadings, Clarksons Research believes.

In the first half of April, average tanker earnings jumped to about $40,000 per day.

This ranks in the top 10% of all values since 1990 and compares to an average of $8,000 between mid-2020 and February 2022.

The rebound means each of the major shipping segments is currently strong.

Container sector remains positive

Holden said trends in the container sector have continued in a spectacular vein after 2021’s extraordinary performance, with global freight rate indicators still more than four times long-term averages, even if rates have eased since the start of the year.

Clarksons’ boxship charter rate index has hit fresh highs of 434 points in April — up 20% on the start of the year.

Bulk carriers have also laid down a new marker, with average earnings having registered the strongest start to a year since 2008 at $22,880 per day. This is up 28% year-on-year.

“The outlook appears positive overall, but with potential for plenty of volatility,” Holden said.