BMI View: The outlook for Bahrain's shipping sector as a whole is tied to that of its premier maritime facility, the Khalifa bin Salman port. In 2015 , the port, and the industry as a whole, is set to post solid growth as it recovers from the contractions in volumes recorded in 2013. Container throughput at the facility is rising as a result of the massive hike in demand at Saudi Arabian ports.
This is a trend we expect to continue over the medium term, where Bahrain will continue to develop its role as a regional transhipment hub. In part, this expectation is down to our trade outlook for the country. With exports forecast to grow by a mere 1.9% in 2015, and to continue at a similar pace to 2024, we do not see any significant source of export growth until the planned additions to aluminium and refined oil production capacity come online towards the end of the decade. As a result, the shipping sector must rely on transhipment as an avenue for growth. The port of Mina Salman should also see tonnage volumes rise, on the back of demand from an extensive house-building programme under way in Bahrain.
Headline Industry Data
Growth in KBSP total tonnage throughput is forecast at 13.1% in 2015, with average annual growth of 10.6% between 2015 and 2019.
Growth in KBSP container throughput is forecast at 5.3% in 2015, with an average annual growth of 3.6% over our forecast period to 2019.
Real growth in total trade is forecast at 2.9% in 2015.
Key Industry Trends
KBSP Dispute Resolved: A dispute over outstanding storage charges has finally been resolved at the Khalifa bin Salman Port (KBSP). In August 2014, the port operator, APM Terminals (APMT), began withholding and refusing to release containers from the facility if their owners had not settled their outstanding bills.
UASC Names First LNG-Ready Mega Vessel: Gulf-based ocean freight services provider United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) has named the first-ever liquefied natural gas-ready mega vessel, according to the company's website. The MV Sajir has a capacity of 15,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (A15) and is the largest and most eco-efficient vessel in that capacity range, according to the website.
IPO Planned For Khalifa Bin Salman Port Operator: In May 2014, Bahrain's Ministry Of Transportation revealed plans to launch an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in the company that operates the Khalifa bin Salman port. The listing would fulfil a contractual agreement made when the port began operating in 2009, and is also expected to aid the recovery of the Bahrain stock market, in which the main index fell 17% between 2008 and 2012.
Key Risks To Outlook
Oil price movements remain a source of risk as exports are highly vulnerable to changes in demand in the highly oil-dependent Gulf. Continued fluctuations in oil prices would lend a degree of uncertainty to the outlook for Bahrain's shipping sector.
The establishment of a 'seabridge' to transport volumes between the KBSP and the Saudi port of Jubail could see a further uptick to an already strong container throughput growth. The deepening of the channel at KBSP also presents upside risks to our forecast. Risks to the downside come from political unrest in the country, which could cause another downturn in volumes following 2011's 1.0% contraction in box throughput.