NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Anyone who follows the merchant-shipping industry knows that a coming onslaught of newly built vessels threatens to create a vicious oversupply in 2010.
The extent to which this burgeoning glut will, in turn, cause shipping rates to flop depends entirely on
get delayed or canceled. (Another relevant question: Will demand for raw materials globally -- and in China especially -- increase enough next year to soak up any excess supply?)
Every dry-bulk outfit in the world, no matter the size or the vessel-class it specializes in, has a stake in the outcome, from
(market cap: $1.5 billion) to
(market cap: $32 million).
In the dry-bulk segment of the shipping industry in 2009, 35% of the vessels scheduled for delivery never saw the water. If owners annul a similar number of newbuildings in 2010, analysts and executives say, the industry may well avoid the worst-case-scenario.
But within the dry-bulk community, opinion is divided on just how much of the total industrywide orderbook will see cancellation. The projections run from a bearish 20% -- courtesy of FBR Capital Markets' shipping analyst, Robert MacKenzie -- to a bullish 45% -- see John Wobensmith, the finance chief at New York-based
Genco Shipping & Trading
, one of the rare companies with no ship deliveries scheduled for next year.
Other ship owners do, of course, have ship deliveries scheduled -- including
, with six capsize vessels on order, or
, with another six -- though four of those likely won't ever haul a single chunk of iron ore, since Excel ordered them from a greenfield shipyard in Korea that has since failed to set up shop, as greenfield shipyards are known to do.
Investors can only hope that similar failures will trim the 2010 orderbook, in addition to the straight-up cancellation of contracts with established yards, even though those decisions will cost shipping companies sizable penalty fees.
With this as a backdrop, we now turn to readers of
to weigh in with their own opinions: Will enough new ships reach the market in 2010 to sink shipping rates and, therefore, dry-bulk shipping stocks?
--Written by Scott Eden in New York
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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.