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"A slowing merchant shipping fleet is concealing capacity that will undermine the industry’s recovery as world trade quickens, according to Arctic Securities ASA, an Oslo-based investment bank.

The attached chart shows an across-the-board slowdown in merchant ships’ sailing speeds, spanning crude and oil products tankers, dry-bulk carriers and container ships. The slower they go, the fewer there are for hire. Conversely, those vessels can go faster when trade picks up.

“If we were to see the market return to the tightness we saw before the financial crisis, owners would speed up their ships and add a considerable amount of capacity,” Martin Sommerseth Jaer, an analyst at Arctic, said by phone. “There’s latent, hidden capacity.” "

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