Company directors, shareholders and the consumer press should beware figures from ferry companies reporting upbeat traffic figures. In the latest edition of his FerryGuide, industry expert Bill Moses warns strong passenger and vehicle carryings do not necessarily translate into increased income. The comprehensive 80-page guide, which covers all aspects of the industry from operations to newbuildings, also contains development forecasts for the sector, trend analysis and useful tabular material and charts for those who want their information at a glance.
Mr. Moses reflects that the Greek spending spree on ferries, which began in the mid-1990s, is nearly over much to the relief of banks and operators alike. "While the newbuilding frenzy presented an opportunity for shipbuilders world-wide over the last decade, the party is now over, leaving yards in the ferry and cruise ship sectors fighting for the next order in a stagnant market." The analyst considers that larger and more established ferry operators could learn lessons from smaller and less well-known companies who have committed to a longer-term strategy by ordering new tonnage. Start-ups, which are a good indicator of an industry's health, have been less to the fore of late. "In spite of a number of credible plans on the table, the mere idea increasingly gives bankers the jitters," he comments.
On the make-up of future newbuilding plans, Mr. Moses forecasts that the frenzy for fast conventional vessels (which characterised the Greek market surge) will never be witnessed again as energy costs become more prominent in operators' minds. "A better solution will be a compromise at about 25 knots and will also boast better revenue-generating uplift in terms of deck space and deadweight. "The plans are out there," he discloses. "But the market place does not yet feel brave enough to expend significant amounts on what, through sheer scale, may either be the last or the penultimate generation of ships capable of being harboured by existing port facilities."
Mr. Moses who has had over thirty years experience in the industry runs Ferry Management Services, a one-stop shop covering all aspects of the ferry industry as well as ShipShape International, a retail and catering based service supplier and MPS, a marine security company.