Jump to content

Long & Short Shipping Cycles - M. J. Hampton

Recommended Posts

Hampton, M. J. (1991) Long and Short Shipping Cycles.
The Rhythms and Psychology of Shipping Markets (Little Shelford: Cambridge Academy of Transport).


(I wanted to save this entry / Dr Martin Stopford's book & review here - in case in disappears from the web)

Shipping Market Cycles

Cycles are not unique to shipping. They occur in many industries and in the economy as a whole. Economic historians have devoted much effort to analysing and classifying cycles into categories, usually focusing on their length. Many different types of cycle have been identified. The Kitchen is a short cycle of 3–4 years; the Juglar lasts 6–8 years; the Labrousse can last 10 or 12 years; the Kuznets lasts 20 years, while a Kondratieff spreads over a half century or more.

In shipping the existence of cycles has long been accepted as part of the shipping business. In January 1901 a broker noted in his annual report that ‘the comparison of the last four cycles (10 year periods) brings out a marked similarity in the salient features of each component year, and the course of prices’. He went on to observe that the cycles seemed to be getting longer ‘a further retrospect shows that in the successive decades the periods of inflation gradually shrink, while the periods of depression correspondingly stretch out’.

Although the length of cycles is of great interest, it soon became evident to observers of the shipping business that the cycles were far more complex than a sequence of regular fluctuations in freight rates. Kirkaldy (1913), saw the cycle as a consequence of the market mechanism. The peaks and troughs in the cycle are signs that the market is adjusting supply to demand by regulating the cashflow:

With the great development of ocean transport, which commenced about half acentury ago, competition became very much accentuated. As the markets became increasingly normal, and trade progressively regular, there was from time to time more tonnage available at a given port than there was cargo ready for shipment. With unlimited competition this led to the cutting of rates, and at times shipping had to be run at a loss. The result was that shipping became an industry enjoying very fluctuating prosperity. Several lean years would be followed by a series of prosperous years. The wealthy ship-owner could afford to put the good years against the bad, and strike an average; a less fortunate colleague after perhaps enjoying a prosperous time, would be unable to face the lean years, and have to give up the struggle.

Viewed in this way, shipping market cycles have a purpose. They create the environment in which weak shipping companies are forced out, leaving the strong to survive and prosper, fostering a lean and efficient shipping business.

While Kirkaldy dwelt on the competition between owners and the part played by cash flow pressures, E.E Fayle (1933) had more to say about the mechanics of the cycle. He suggested that the build-up of a cycle is triggered by the world business cycle or random events such as wars which create a shortage of ships. The resulting high freight rates attract new investors into the industry, and encourage a flood of speculative investment, thus expanding shipping capacity: The extreme elasticity of tramp shipping, the ease with which new-comers can establish themselves, and the very wide fluctuations of demand, make the ownership of tramp steamers one of the most speculative forms of all legitimate business. A boom in trade or a demand for shipping for military transport (as during the South African War) would quickly produce a disproportion between supply and demand; sending freight soaring upwards. In the hope of sharing the profits of the boom, owners hastened to increase their fleet and new owners come into the business. The world’s tonnage was rapidly increased to a figure beyond the normal requirements, and the short boom was usually followed by a prolonged slump.

This perception of the cycle suggests a sequence of three events, a trade boom, a short shipping boom during which there is overbuilding, followed by a ‘prolonged’slump. However Fayle is not confident about the sequence, since he says the boom is ‘usually’ followed by a prolonged slump. He thought the tendency of the cycles to overshoot the mark could be attributed to the lack of barriers to entry. Once again the cycle is more about people than statistics.Forty years later Cufley (1972) also drew attention to the sequence of three key events common to shipping cycles. First, a shortage of ships develops, second, high freight rates stimulate over-ordering of the ships in short supply which finally leads to market collapse and recession.

The main function of the freight market is to provide a supply of ships for that part of world trade which, for one reason or another, does not lend itself to long-term freighting practices. In the short term this is achieved by the interplay of market forces through the familiar cycle of booms and slumps. When a shortage of ships develops rising freights lead to a massive construction of new ships.There comes a point either when demand subsides or when deliveries of new vessels overtake a still increasing demand. At this stage freights collapse, vessels are condemned to idleness in laying up berths.

An elegant definition of the cycle as the process by which the market co-ordinates supply with changes in demand by means of the familiar cycle of booms and slumps. However, Cufley is convinced that the cycle is too irregular to predict. He goes onto say: Any attempt to make long-term forecasts of voyage freights (as distinct from interpreting the general trend in growth of demand) is doomed to failure. It is totally impossible to predict when the open market will move upwards (or fall),to estimate the extent of the swing or the duration of the phase.

Finally Hampton (1991) in his analysis of long and short shipping cycles emphasizes the important part played by people and the way they respond to price signals received from the market: In today’s modern shipping market it is easy to forget that a drama of human emotions is played out in market movements… In the shipping market, price movements provide the cues. Changes in freight rates or ship prices signal the next round of investment decisions. Freight rates work themselves higher and trigger orders. Eventually excess orders undermine freight rates. Lower freight rates stall orders and encourage demolition. At the low point in the cycle, reduced ordering and increased demolition shrink the supply and set the stage for a rise in freight rates. The circle revolves.

Hampton goes on to argue that market sentiment plays an important part in determining the structure of cycles and that this can help to explain why the market repeatedly seems to over-react to the price signals.In any market including the shipping market, the participants are caught up in a struggle between fear and greed. Because we are human beings, influenced to varying degrees by those around us, the psychology of the crowd feeds up on itself until it reaches an extreme that cannot be sustained. Once the extreme has been reached, too many decisions have been made out of emotion and a blind comfort which comes from following the crowd rather than objective fact. All these descriptions of the shipping cycle have a common theme. They describe it as a mechanism devoted to removing imbalances in the supply and demand for ships. If there is too little supply, the market rewards investors with high freight rates until more ships are ordered. When there are too many ships it squeezes the cashflow until owners give up the struggle and ships are scrapped. Looked at in this way the length of the cycles is incidental. They last as long as is necessary to do the job. It is possible to classify them by length, but this is not very helpful as a forecasting aid. If investors decide that an upturn is due and decide not to scrap their ships, the cycle just lasts longer. Since shipowners are constantly trying to second guess the cycle, crowd psychology gives each cycle a distinctive character.Yet another reason why the cycles are irregular.

Stage 1: Trough

We can identify three characteristics of a trough. First, there will be evidence of surplus shipping capacity. Ships queue up at loading points and vessels at sea slow steam to save fuel and delay arrival. Secondly freight rates fall to the operating cost of the least efficient ships in the fleet which move into lay up. Thirdly, sustained low freight rates and tight credit create a negative net cash flow which becomes progressively greater. Shipping companies short of cash are forced to sell ships at distress prices, since there are few buyers. The price of old ships falls to the scrap price, leading to active demolition market.

Stage 2: Recovery
As supply and demand move towards balance, the first positive sign of a recovery is positive increase in freight rates above operating costs, followed by a fall in laid up tonnage. Market sentiment remains uncertain and unpredictable.Spells of optimism alternate with profound doubts about whether a recovery is really happening. As liquidity improves second-hand prices rise and sentiment firms.

Stage 3: Peak/Plateau
When all the surplus has been absorbed the market enters a phase where supply and demand are in tight balance. Freight rates are high, often two or three times operating costs. The peak may last a few weeks or several years, depending on the balance of supply/demand pressures. Only untradeable ships are laid up; the fleet operates at full speed; owners become very liquid; banks are keen to lend; the press report the prosperous shipping business; there are public flotations ofshipping companies. Second hand prices move above ‘book value’ and prompt modern ships may sell for more than the newbuilding price. The shipbuilding orderbook expands,slowly at first, then more rapidly.

Stage 4: Collapse
When supply overtakes demand the market moves into the collapse phase. Although the downturn is generally caused by fundamental factors such as the business cycle, the clearing of port congestion and the delivery of vessels ordered at the top of the market, all of which take time, sentiment can accelerate the collapse into a few weeks. Spot ships build up in key ports. Freight rates fall, ships reduce operating speed and the least attractive vessels have to wait for cargo. Liquidity remains high.Sentiment is confused, changing with each rally in rates.

/source: http://marinepedia.blogspot.com/2009/09/sh...ket-cycles.html

== ==
Search : "HAMPTON Long+and+Short+Shipping Cycle"

References from above:

Fayle, E.C. (1933) A Short History Of the World's Shipping Industry (London, George Allen ...

Hampton, M. (1986)'Shipping cycles', Seatrade, January. Hampton, M.J. ...

Long and Short Shipping Cycles (Cambridge:Cambridge Academyof Transport),3rd edition1991. .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...

Summary and conclusions
In conclusion, I have argued that the shipping industry is being driven along by the
globalization era initiated in 1944 at Bretton Woods. This exciting and positive
process is far from over, with many regions of the world still a very long way from
achieving economic prosperity. So far roughly one billion people have achieved high
living standards, but there are another 3 billion waiting to join them. Only a great
optimist could regard the next stage of globalization as one of which will be achieved
smoothly and without friction, but there is a job to be done and I am certain sea
transport will play a major part in future development of the global economy .

However I have also argued that globalization has followed a deeply cyclical path
which has made running a shipping business both difficult and risky. The great
upswing during the 1950s and 1960s reached a peak in 1973 and moved into a
downswing which lasted into the 1990s
. Since 1997 the industry has been on an
upswing, and arguably reached a peak in 2008, though the nature of these
developments is such that there could easily be another way of growth ahead of us –
in such a volatile environment the future is never certain.

Whatever may happen to demand, the shipping industry now has a supply-side
demographic which is likely to generate far more shipping capacity than is needed to
meet any plausible surge in sea transport demand in the next few years. So I think we
must expect tough times ahead with more ships than cargoes.
Finally I hope I have demonstrated that these cycles, whatever form they take, are an
essential part of the globalization process. They are always with us, and we must
make the best of them. Good luck on the voyage!
Martin Stopford


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

What can we learn from 259 years of shipping cycles?


Using a very long time series indeed of 259 years for dry cargo freight ......

Alexander M. Goulielmos, former professsor at the Univesity of Piraeus / cites:

Hampton, M.J. (1991) Long and Short Shipping Cycles, 3rd ed., Cambridge Academy .



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alex Goulielmos said (above):
"...Previous writers (Hampton, Stopford, Randers, and Goluke) without nonlinear
econometrics reached the same conclusions.

== SIDEBAR: on Jorgen Randers ==

Who are these guys?

One of them, Jorgen Randers was famous years before the Long and Short Cycles book:


He was one of the authors of Limits to Growth (1972), with Dennis Meadows, et al

Jørgen Randers is a Norwegian academic, professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, and practitioner in the field of future studies. Wikipedia

Born: 1945

He's still giving thought-provoking lectures

We won't be nine billion: Jørgen Randers at TEDxMaastricht

Published on May 11, 2014

... if you liked that, here's more:



What SHOULD have been done
1. Introduce the 1-child family, first in the rich world - to further slow growth
2. Ban fossil fuels, first in the rich world - to reduce climate emissions
3. Build a climate-friendly energy system for and in the poor world - to help them avoid cheap coal
4. Establish supra-national institutions (e.g. a global central bank for climate-gas-emission rights_ - to temper short-termism
5. Establish new goals for a rich society: Higher wellbeing in a world without growth

An Update to Limits to Growth: http://cms2.unige.ch/isdd/IMG/pdf/jorgen_randers_2052_a_global_forecast_for_the_next_forty_years.pdf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reference from an article by A. Goulielmos

Long-term forecasting of BFI using chaos cycle theory and maritime technical analysis


Idealized Long-run shipping cycle of 16-24 Years due to Hampton / source: Hampton (1990)

Maritime technical analysis (1990)
Hampton (1990) argued that it is possible to make accurate short- and long-term forecasts of freight rates by combining market psychology with cycles of various durations. He singled out two major cycles. (a) The Short-run Hampton’s cycle (2002-2008) The short run idealized cycle of Hampton, consisting of 4 shorter cycles and 8 stages, is shown in a historical picture in Figure 6 for 1986-1990. This cycle, lasting 3-4 years, had 8 stages starting at stage 0 with 535.5 units in the BFI index in 1986. Up to stage 5 the freight rate shows 3 regular ups and 3 downs with the characteristic being the peak at stage 5 (1684 units). Stage 7 must be lower than stage 5 and stage 8 must be equal to stage 0 (800 units 535.5).

Next is a more contemporary picture of the short-run Hampton cycles (Figure 7): one from November 2002 to July 2005 (33 months from low to low; lasting 40.5 months<48 months maximum); one between 2005 and 2008 and one starting on 16th December 2008 and terminated in April 2011. Figure 7 above covers daily BPI from 01/11/1999 to 25/01/2011.


Figure 7.
Panamax, 4 time charter routes of BPI $ per day, 01/11/99-25/01/11, 2815 days

Source: Excel and data for BPI.
Table 4.
Hampton’s short cycle 3-4 years, 2005-2008

The General picture

01/08/2005 $1522 at the start, stage 0 Start 23/01/06, stage 1 at $ 1882 Stage 4 at $5472 11/06/07 Stage 7 at $11056 19/05/08- lower than that of stage 5 as in theory 13/10/2008 $1584 end, stage 8; Stage 2 at $3632 23/10/06 Stage 5 (peak) at $11524 29/10/07 Stage 8 at $1584 13/10/08 –this should be equal to $1522 of stage 0; The Detailed picture Start 01/08/2005 at $1522, stage 0 Stage 3 at $6261 14/05/07 -support from supply and demand equilibrium Stage 6 at $5620 28/01/08 Duration 40.5 months (within theory of 36-48 months)

. . .
units). Stage 7 must be lower than stage 5 and stage 8 must be equal to stage 0 (800 units>535.5). Next is a more contemporary picture of the short-run Hampton cycles (Figure 7): one from November 2002 to July 2005 (33 months from low to low; lasting 40.5 months<48 months maximum); one between 2005 and 2008 and one starting on 16th December 2008 and terminated in April 2011. Figure 7 above covers daily BPI from 01/11/1999 to 25/01/2011. The cycles that can be read from Figure 7 are 2 finished and one on the way, from low to low: i.e. one from day 760 to day 1430, i.e. 22 months and 10 days; one from 1430 to 2240, i.e. 27 months and one from 2240 to 2815, i.e. 19 months and 5 days (which continued). We see that cycles last longer as we move into the end 2008 crisis. The total duration is 7 years and about 4 months for the 3 short cycles since 2002, taking into account Hampton’s theory. The lowest value of the index occurred on 12/12/08

Table 4 shows the freight rates that were formed during Hampton’s short cycle (2005-2008).


Figure 7 shows that a new short cycle started on 13/12/08 at $3 537 plus (after the 2286th day) (This cycle started and continued beyond Jan. 2011). This is the correction phase.

The correction phase is when excesses and mistakes in the build-up phase are corrected. According to Hampton (1990), the freight market during this phase is irregular; the first short cycle after crisis 2008-2012, as shown in Figures 4 and 8, produced lower (<$30 000) freight rates. Ordering new ships ceased, apart for speculation and ‘false dawns’ (‘False dawn’ is a metaphor meaning that ship-owners proceed to get finance from their bankers believing on the coming of a ‘dawn’, i.e. a permanent improvement of freight market, which, however, proves to be deceptive. A barometer of the market to improve is the minimal amount of laid up tonnage)
> Academic citation:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

OTHER References;

Managing Energy Price Risk - Risk Books


Vincent Kaminski, Rice University


Section Introduction - Vincent Kaminski

1. Energy Swaps

Jack Kellett, Standard Bank London Ltd

2. Energy Options

Michael Hampton, HDS Shipping

3. Energy Exotic Options

Vincent Kaminski, Rice University and Stinson Gibner and Krishnarao Pinnamaneni, Constellation Power Source

4. Commodity Risk Management in Energy Project Finance

Lloyd Spencer, PricewaterhouseCoopers

(and so on...)

    The definitive third edition of the best-selling multi-author reference source on global energy and power markets - fully revised, updated and extended to ...

    Managing Energy Price Risk : Vincent Kaminski : 9781904339199

    Apr 15, 2004 - All the main energy areas including natural gas, oil, coal and electricity as well as related markets such as ...
    Energy Swaps Jack Kellett, Standard Bank London Ltd 2. Energy Options Michael Hampton, HDS Shipping 3.
    Managing Energy Price Risk: The New Challenges and Solutions, Third Edition 3rd edition by Kaminski, Vincent (2004) Hardcover on Amazon.com. *FREE* ...
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    • 1 year later...

    Google Scholar

    Long and short shipping cycles: the rhythms and psychology of shipping markets

    has 45 academic citations. Examples follow:

    Implementing the new science of risk management to tanker freight markets

    W Abouarghoub - 2020 - uwe-repository.worktribe.com
    Studies in the area of shipping freight risk measurement and management are limited and
    the understandings of the impact of freight volatility dynamics on the freight market remain
    insufficient and under-researched. The few studies that explore different approaches to …

    Forecasting turning points in shipping freight rates: lessons from 30 years of practical effort

    J Randers, U Göluke - … Dynamics Review: The Journal of the …, 2007 - Wiley Online Library
    We argue that it is possible to explain much of the history of the world's shipping markets
    since 1950 as the interaction of two balancing feedback loops: a capacity adjustment loop
    which creates a roughly 20‐year wave, and a capacity utilization adjustment loop which …

    Is history repeated? Cycles and recessions in shipping markets, 1929 and 2008

    AM Goulielmos - International Journal of Shipping and …, 2009 - inderscienceonline.com
    The idea of the paper created by the 1990 monograph of M. Hampton, who argued that
    history of shipping is repeated in the short run cycles (three to four years), the long cycles
    (16-24 years) and the long Kondratieff waves of 56 years. Thus, we argue in this paper that …

    The “Kondratieff Cycles” in Shipping Economy since 1741 and till 2016

    AM Goulielmos - Modern Economy, 2017 - scirp.org
    The theory of “long waves”, due to Russian economist Kondratieff, which appeared in the
    1920s, is presented, and a search whether a similar pattern exists in shipping economy
    since 1741 is made. Kondratieff believed in the existence—inherent in capitalistic system …
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    • 9 months later...

    The “Kondratieff Cycles” in Shipping Economy since 1741 and ...
    https://www.scirp.org › journal
    The paper “discovered” the secular shipping cycles of a total duration of 139 years using the proper extra-long time data. ...

    Hampton [9] was the one to bring Kondratieff's theory into shipping. ... This is what happened in 1999 in Greece. As this ...

    > https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314097994_The_Kondratieff_Cycles_in_Shipping_Economy_since_1741_and_till_2016

    > https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=2ahUKEwj-wpfFxq3wAhU8L6YKHdTvAvEQFjAAegQIAxAD&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.researchgate.net%2Fpublication%2F314097994_The_Kondratieff_Cycles_in_Shipping_Economy_since_1741_and_till_2016&amp;usg=AOvVaw277OlxM3R7CkYBRUYFJYQj

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    GOLD BROKE OUT... and briefly exceeded $2400 this past week, as Iran threaten to enter the Gaza / Israel conflict

    NOW you can here many forecasts of higher Gold levels, like $5,000

    My response on a Viber thread was...

    Those Kinds of forecasts are not easy to get Right.  Remember the Club of Rome's LIMITS TO GROWTH from 1972?  

    My old friend from my London days. Prof Jorgen Randers was involved in that project.   Here he is from 1 year ago talking about what went wrong with their forecast that the world would run out of commodities, and prices would soar to unimaginable levels:  

    Jørgen Randers - From “The Limits to Growth” to “Earth for All” – the long global perspective  


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now
    • Create New...