The Daily Mail recently made waves with a photo exposing what it called the "ghost fleet of the recession" where hundreds of ships were shown on anchor off the straits of Singapore, doing nothing except rusting: a tribute to the unprecedented collapse in world trade, the bulk of which is seaborne, and the huge amount of excess slack in shipping.
Zero Hedge decided to probe this idea further, and for that we took advantage of the very useful real time ship tracker functionality provided by vesseltracker.com (any reader who has Google Earth can easily replicate these results using the following data file).
First we wanted to show how traditionally functioning critical routes are still heavily trafficked, as can be seen by the large amount of green highlights in the following snapshots (green indicates operating ship, red denotes a ship out of spot/charter and currently unused).
Red Sea (one hopes the Somali pirates do not have access to Vesseltracker):
Yet where it gets interesting is when one scours for comparable packets of inactivity as that captured by the Daily Mail. As a first example of just how bad it really is, we recreate the image of the Singapore Strait that is shown on the picture at the top:
What is surprising is how prevalent this pattern is around the globe. Some comparable areas we discovered were the following:
Coast of Britain:
Qinhungdao (Chinese coast) - note the pattern that allows any active ships to actually enter the harbor. This is probably not a good indication of the Baltic Dry Index to going up any time soon.
Putuo - another representation of Chinese overzealousness in building drybulkers:
Dubai: the gateway to the middle east is essentially closed. All that expensive oil, and nobody is transporting it...At least if you look closely you can see some very nice man made islands, that are the only remnants of the great Dubai experiment in recreating the US credit/real estate bubble:
Most shocking is the situation around the Bosporus: the transit corridor between Russia and the rest of the world is orders of magnitude worse than even the Singapore case.
As for our own back yard, this is the situation in the Gulf of Mexico: a sea of red. One wonders how many of these ships are merely filled with crude, happily waiting for oil to hit $145 one more time.
The bottom line: world trade has collapsed, shipping lines, once flourishing, have become graveyard archipelagos populated by rusting ship skeletons. Yet all of this is beyond the land, and thus far from sight. Of course, who needs trade when you have a speculative market trading in its own bubble, hitting yearly highs day after day, thanks only and exclusively to the Chairman's printing press. It is a pity these ships can not sail in the sea of hundred dollar bills that is being created each and every day at the Federal Reserve, whose only use these days it seems is to buy junker stocks and to feed the algos that lift whatever offers are stupid enough to float in the equity market.