International Trade and Carriage of Goods

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Slow steaming clauses and international sales contracts: A successful marriage?

Slow steaming clauses and international sales contracts: A successful marriage?

Dr Theodora Nikaki

2.1 Introduction - setting the scene

The global financial crisis has affected the world in many ways, including how different industries worldwide, including the shipping sector, conduct their business. Bunker prices went up,2 while at the same time trade dropped dramatically, leading to a shrinking demand for transport and in turn to oversupply of vessels, a matter exacerbated by the delivery of new-built vessels ordered before the economic recession.3 The shipping sector responded quickly to the financial downturn by deliberately slowing down the speed of seagoing vessels (‘slow steaming’) in order to reduce operating costs4 and also absorb excess fleet capacity.5 Slower transit times have reduced, at least to a certain extent, the imbalance between the supply of shipping and the demand for it, which otherwise would have had a more acute negative impact on freight rates and increased the idling costs of ‘laid-up’ vessels.6 Slow steaming was first introduced in container lines around 2007-2008, and was soon afterwards extended to other types of ships including tankers and

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dry bulk carriers, whose operating speeds were traditionally lower when compared to container ships.7

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