Thousands Of Rusting Ship Hulls Are A Fitting Tribute To The Speculative Market Bubble

Tyler Durden's picture

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 (any reader who has Google Earth can easily replicate these results using the following data file).

The results

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:

Belgian coast:

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.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Anonymous's picture

Maybe those tanker ships are there to keep oil low while they take the dollar lower.

Spartacus's picture

The World market has been hijacked by Central Bank Heads Fraudsters(baring Israel and Japan) and Banks headed by Thieves.

The rallies are orchestrated. They will do it till the pubic starts putting lead into their heads. I am waiting with a smile on my face. It takes time ,guys. It will happen.

Look at the change in my belief. A reformed Bankster.

Anonymous's picture

Are you insane? Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer directed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's PhD thesis.

Chumly's picture

Den of Thieves; Brood of Vipers!

Anonymous's picture

... OR maybe it is because the docks at Brani can only handle 9 births at a time as far as unloading/loading cargo and Keppel 14 (not all major ships); plus the sorting of the cargo on the dock to be delivered to another ship.

So the queue at the bank.. or a traffic jam or queuing for you take-off time at an airport due to high traffic is a representation of the world industry screeching to a halt? this is stupid guys.

Singapore has half the world's crude oil being refined and transported out of Singapore. They can only dock max 23 ships at Jurong one point in time and load them with oil.. which takes considerable time.. what do boats do while this happens? they wait.. and they anchor because of high traffic congestion, else they float away..

And then Singapore has the world's busiest port.. one boat coming in every 5 minutes, what do the other boats do when all the docks are taken? They wait and anchor. Why do they have to wait their turn, because no captain is permitted to drive their boat in Singapore waters without a certified pilot who has over 1000 hours in Singapore waters.. and what do they have to do? They have to anchor...

Do you know how big Singapore is? And what little space the boats have to park at? oh .. yeah. it is high density. Have those boats been there before the economic meltdown? YES.. i have lived in Singapore for 5 years and seen the exact same amount of boats parked there every year - and taken pics of it every year. Do some research on how the shipping industry works guys.. this is just stupid.

Same goes for all other major ports.. there is high traffic and high density.. and so Ships have to wait. Singapore has the most advanced shipping IT system.. in fact they are doing so well right now they are expanding with another 16 birthing points. This is why Malaysia wants to compete with Singapore by opening up a new port and building a canal through Malaysia..

A quick wikipedia search explains everything (note the last sentence):

The Port of Singapore refers to the collective facilities and terminals that conduct maritime trade handling functions in Singapore's harbours and which handle Singapore's shipping. Currently the world's busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage, it also tranships a fifth[1] of the world's shipping tainers as the world's busiest container port, half of the world's annual supply of crude oil, and is the world's busiest transshipment port. It was also the busiest port in terms of total cargo tonnage handled until 2005, when it was surpassed by the Port of Shanghai. Thousands of ships drop anchor in the harbour, connecting the port to over 600 other ports in 123 countries and spread over six continents.

blindfaith's picture

hey thanks for all that spew.  Maybe if you identified yourself we might understand your intentions, or what you are selling. I think your info is from an old edition of Britania.   Anonymos, why you could be anyone with a special interest in Sinapore or China like Mr. Jim Rogers. Yes?

Anonymous's picture

I appreciate the rant, but if the ships were in a "queue," they would still be green...under charter...

But we're all impressed that you can look "Port of Singapore" up on Wikipedia.

Anonymous's picture

exactly correct!
Ships under charter, waiting, are "green".
Only an empty ship is shown in red. And wow there are many!

Anonymous's picture

Sorry to burst the bubble for all 3 of you, read post #71854

I have no agenda, I live in Singapore as a foreigner and have looked at the ships for over 5 years, and just recently got my own boating license. I just want facts represented, put things in context!

In fact the traffic has been quite light.. and certainly there has not been a major increase in boats anchored in Singapore waters. Singapore authority wouldn't permit it, because of the limited maritime space and the busy port. Please check google maps, or google "ships outside Sentosa Siloso Beach".. check pictures from 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007.. and you will see that the exact same amount of anchored vessels. Anyone who has flown in or out of Singapore for the last few years can take pics of this from their plane that land at Changi Airport. I invite you to fly to Singapore and check it out yourself.

What does me being registered have anything to do with my credibility? or me having an agenda? Look at your own username, do they build any credibility whatsoever?? talk about building a straw man..

Anonymous's picture

Your not even worth the time. Look at the picture posted by this website.. Singapore is the world's busiest transshipment port. Why would the image posted on this website have 21 green dots only - when several credible sources, even when can show you Singapore has several hundred ships coming in every day? All the green dots have a bearing... does an anchored ship have a bearing? NO..

Why did I link to wikipedia.. just to show the lack of research done by the people who posted this article. They couldn't even look the port of Singapore up on wikipedia and do some background research first before they jumped to a false conclusion.. neither the premises nor the conclusion of their argument is valid or true.

Anonymous's picture

I am a singaporean and the office that I am working now is facing PSA directly.. There are no ships waiting to undock at the ports here since lehman when bankrupted last year.

I still have a pic taken back in 2007 with all the cranes in PSA busy unloading containers.

Joe Sixpack's picture

The globalist one-world financial system is coming to a screeching halt.

Anonymous's picture

Only in preparation to proceed to the next level. IMO the "solution" will be an order of globalization that has never been seen before. Meanwhile, much more pain will come first, to create a more receptive environment.

keehotee's picture

We are all free to turn our collective backs on this charade at any time- in fact, if we do in sufficient numbers we may be saved.

Anonymous's picture

yes we are and yes we may.

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture

Side note:

Barges are not tracked by this system. You can say who cares but there are barges out there that can carry in excess of 200,000 barrels of product. That was the racket during the price boom. Load up barges send them out to anchor till after inventory and then bring them back. Now, if they are used for storage, they won't pop up on these types of systems...unless you know what Tug they are mated with.

Anonymous's picture

What is the best way to find the matched tug? Any thoughts of the path to go.

Stevm30's picture

Good stuff.  It'd be interesting to see a side by side comparison with September 2005... to get some sort of baseline.

Assetman's picture


We really have no reference to determine whether current activity is normal or not.

I would expect to see better dispersion of ships in a more normal period... but where's the evidence????

TumblingDice's picture

Well there is the price baseline: now you get a 90% discount for charters (ref:dailymail article). assuming that supply and demand correlate with price, then there had to be a corresponding, maybe not 90% but large dropoff in demand, in order to affect price this way.

Anonymous's picture

our evidence is not scientific, but only a personal anecdote:

while hiking on llama island in HK not too long ago with a lifelong resident, we looked out into the south china sea and he mentioned that he had never seen so many ships just sitting there.

we agreed that it must be a floating limbo out there.

Chumly's picture

Here's another anecdote:  Anyone with half a brain who casually observes East-West rail traffic on the BNSF line, say through Flagstaff for example, would tell you that there is less traffic these days.  Most of the same observers would also tell you that most trains on those lines carry shipping containers from China.  So, while ZH may not have a have a statistical "baseline" for their current observations, most astute individuals here understand what is going on - the obvious.

Daedal's picture

The last time I saw a similar frenzy to buy stocks was in '99, no joke. Every cubicle-occupier has a stock tip... GNW, C, etc.

This is no bull market -- this is the running of the bulls, with many runners about to get skewered.

ghostfaceinvestah's picture

I said this weeks ago and some people chose not to believe me - the S&P will go to 1200 by the end of the year, and could easily reach 2000 by the end of next year, if the Fed keeps printing dollars like they are.

But the higher it goes, the more it will fall.  Think shorting the NASDAQ in March 2000, that is the kind of opportunity there is going to be.  Just wait until the Fed stops printing.

I wonder if the Fed realizes that their money printing doesn't produce inflation anymore, it produces asset bubbles?  Nah, that would be giving them too much credit.

Big Al's picture

But suppose the FED never stops printing money.   As long as "core" inflation stays under 5% per cent, Ben will keep the presses running.

Anonymous's picture

Brilliant work!

Obviously is a serious threat to national security and must be shut down at once.

Anonymous's picture

this seems wrong - from

Barclays creates $12bn credit vehicle

By Sam Jones

Published: September 16 2009 16:26 | Last updated: September 16 2009 16:26

Barclays has unveiled a plan to sell more than $12bn of risky credit assets to a company it has created to try to reduce the risk of further writedowns.

Anonymous's picture

Wrong? Fraudulent? Shady as all hell?

A company it created, so does Barclays still own this company??? Are private investors expected to buy shares in this 'risky' company?

This is just a weather balloon, they want to see if they can do it for 12 bn now, and 12 tn later!

Anonymous's picture

>>Barclays has unveiled a plan to sell more than $12bn of risky credit assets to a company it has created to try to reduce the risk of further writedowns.<<

Enron did the same thing to eliminate their money losing businesses and get them off of their books onto another company's books. The trouble was Enron owned the other company. Ken Lay went to prison over this and I hear his jail cell is available if the President of Barclays wants a new vacation home. LOL

Anonymous's picture

There is something off about the Bosphorus one. There is no way there would be so many idle ships parked in what is essentially the heart of Istanbul (or clogging of the Golden Horn for that matter). What exactly are the red dots representing? I know ships often have to WAIT quite a while to get through the Bosphorus.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Red denotes a ship out of spot/charter and currently unused."

As in idle, not earning its keep, going nowhere fast. If a tanker were filled with oil and just sitting there, it would not show up as a red dot because it would currently be under contract/charter. 

Anonymous's picture

Ok, take a look at one of the red dots on the bosphorus. Named the "Bosphorus Princess".

That's a tiny dinner cruise boat!

Not exactly an "idle cargo ship".

TumblingDice's picture

Phew! For a second there I was scared shitless that this story was true or carried any importance but with your crack up journalism I now see my errant ways. If the Bosphorus Princess is one of the red dots then the thousands of remaining red dots are equally meaningless. Thanks anon!

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

There is no monopoly on ships names so more than one ship can have the same name. Since this data is being collected near real time from on board equipment, you won't find this equipment on small ships.

Vesseltracker sells this data (with much more detail) to shipping companies and other interested parties. Small local ships are not in need of these services and won't outfit their boats with the equipment needed.

The info is as detailed as direction the ship is traveling, the speed, whether is docked or anchored etc. The confirmation is the Baltic Dry index, which has collapsed. Prices only drop 90% when supply far exceeds demand.

I downloaded the data into Google Earth and spent 2 hours looking at various ports around the world and it's easy to see patterns. The major pattern is that many of the idle boats are docked along rivers and inland seas.

Scale down to very close and you will be amazed how many ships are idle. Often one red dot is actually covering 5 or 10 boats that only come into focus when you get closer.

Entire countries don't participate in this program such as Japan and Russia but you can still learn a lot from looking. This isn't the one piece of the puzzle but other data back this up.

It's clear that this illustration is very compelling.

Jim_Rockford's picture

How did Subic Bay look ?  I heard a few months ago it was a parking lot.

Also, what kind of oil demand decline do you think we are looking at as the sole result of so many ships anchored up and (presumably) not running their mains thus not consuming bunker oil?

Also, if all these ships are not combusting bunker oil, doesn't that translate into a huge "carbon credit" in regards to not only CO2, but smog, other greenhouse gases, and pollutants normally emitted in the boom cycle?


Anonymous's picture

You don't need these stupid shots, if anyone cares, just shout, I can take a high resolution photos of the shoreline in one of the asian cities mentioned and send it around for your appreciation, I have been writing about these ships anchored here repeatedly but no one seems to care

Anonymous's picture

So can I, and I can compare them with photos 5 years ago.. and show you it is the exact same amount! In fact you don't even need me to do that.. just google it yourself! Plenty of blogs that document it..

TumblingDice's picture

Should read, commuter ferry*

Stop trying to discredit this story with anectodal evidence. It is an insult to logic that this disinformation tactic is even used here.

Anonymous's picture


I'm not trying to discredit the "story": anyone with half a brain knows that global trade is in the shitter and that green shoots feed on QE BS.

I'm trying to point out is that there is something weird about the BOSPHORUS picture in particular. It is clear that the red dots there include a number of small local boats/ferries for some reason (Error? Who knows, I don't run

All I'm saying is that using the Bosphorus as the most "shocking" example dilutes the credibility of this otherwise important story.

TumblingDice's picture

Ok good to know.

I understand the desire to hold this site to a higher standard of scrutiny since it is one of the few entities that does the same for our financial and political systems.

However as I mentioned in a reply which I think was also addressed to you, the point here was not precision but instead a demostration of the sheer volume of the problem, that is largely being shuffled to the side.

But as usual, it is a good thing that you along with others provide su with critical eye for all the information here.

ZerOhead's picture

No worries guys...

The oversupply of these vessels will be soon be remedied through the "Cash for Clunker Ships" program.

i.knoknot's picture

when a million people march on washington (9/12/09) and it barely gets a breath of media notice, we all need to wary of important things being 'shuffled to the side'.

ever vigilant, seek and spread fact, find the truth, etc.

Anonymous's picture


Second that. I live very close to the Bosphorus, and see
many ships (not commuter ferries, there are literally
hundreds of commuter ferries daily taking place across
the Bosphorus, fyi) are idle waiting to pass through the straits.

ZH readers, do not forget that Bosphorus is home to Istnabul, a city of 10+million people living, so the ships always take their time before and during passing the Bosphorus.

TD, you can track down the port activity of major trade cities (just like Calculated Risk does with LA/Long Beach Port for both export and import year over year), and that would give us another metric to understand what's going on with the world trade.

Keep up the good word. Long time follower, first (or make that second) time poster.



Tax Man's picture

You are right. If you have an idle ship, you want to place it strategically so you are close to possible ports were the chance of a contract is high. Singapore, Gulf of Aden and Bosphorus are such places. You would expect to find most of the idle ships there. You absolutly need a YoY picture to make any sense of the data.