The real danger to marine shippers lies in the battered global economy rather than any threat of conflict over a tract of ocean in Southeast Asia.
Over the past two years, Cosco's share prices have fallen a steep 63%. Pacific Basin shares are down 42% and Evergreen has lost 33% over the same period. Neptune Orient is down 46% and Maersk off 16%.
And over the past two years, sandwiched between the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and the August 2011 relapse, marine shippers have faced a cut in demand from Europe and the United States. Ships are in oversupply. They have paid higher prices for fuel because of rising crude oil prices.
Financing and refinancing are tougher now as European banks, the main lenders to shipping firms, pull back because of ratings downgrades. The shippers can't pass those costs on to customers unless the world economy improves.Capt. Bhatia calls these problems "detrimental to the prospects of the shipping industry in general." At the time of publication, Jennings held no positions in stocks mentioned. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.