According to an ICCT (International Council of Clean Transportation) report, bulk carriers globally are sailing 56% of time in ballast, with small or no payload. As cargo flows are never symmetric, there will always be a need for ballast voyages. I do believe however that there is room for improvement, particularly with the regulatory pressure to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions. Below are some observations and ideas on how ballast distance reduction could be achieved by shipowners.
1. Make sure all fixed and COA cargos are efficiently and profitably planned on your fleet = how to bundle cargos and which vessel to assign, based on overall transportation cost analysis
2. Instead of focusing on regions, start predicting combined pre and post voyage ballast distance and use that for choosing the right vessels
3. Don’t hesitate to relet cargos to other shipowners that might be better positioned
4. Make sure communication between chartering and planning teams work efficiently, so that you can identify the right cargos to bid for and at the best rate
5. Try to extend the planning horizon to catch the right cargos from the market early on and allowing sufficient time for cargo swapping/reletting/sub chartering
6. Don’t hesitate to renegotiate laycan/loading window when it makes sense for your overall fleet utilisation rate
7. Whenever possible, consider tank/hold cleaning/preparation over longer ballast distances
8. Instead of regional balance of open positions, consider going for heatmap based vessel distribution, that anticipates cargo availability on a more granular level
I believe the best commercial yield could be achieved by expanding the planning horizon, and using that advantage to fix more optimal cargos and relet the less optimal ones. What do you think is the best way to reduce ballast voyages?