Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 00:11 UK

Ships moored on loch during slump

Container vessels on Loch Striven
The vessels have been moored up until trading conditions become clear

Four redundant container ships have been moored in Loch Striven this week because of the fall in world trade.

The Danish shipping company Maersk has decided to put the ships into what is called "cold lay-up".

This means they will be moored together on the loch with a skeleton crew for at least six months, or until it is economically viable to move them on.

The four ships have been waiting in the Firth of Clyde for a decision on their future.

Maersk made its decision last week and over the past few days the ships have been towed into the loch and anchored.

Fleets expanded

The four ships, the Bentonville, Baltimore, Sealand Performance and Beaumont, sailed from South Africa with food and consumer goods for markets in northern Europe.

They should have made their way back along the same route, but with trade down, they have no cargo to carry.

It is now more cost effective to pay lay-up fees to the local port authority, Clydeport, rather than move them on.

During the economic boom, shipping companies - including Maersk - expanded their fleets and built massive container ships.

We get very mixed messages about what the world economy is doing, and shipping follows the world economy
Michael Tamvakis
Economics professor

This expansion, coupled with the sudden fall in world trade has hit shipping companies hard.

Even the bustling ports in the Far East and major hub ports such as Los Angeles have been affected.

There are now several hundred ships in lay-up in Singapore. Estimates suggest that world trade has fallen by about 10%.

The usually picturesque Loch Striven was used to park ships during the the oil crisis in the 1970s.

Two gas tankers bound for Africa were moored there for 20 years, after they became redundant.

Michael Tamvakis, professor of commodity economics and trade at Cass Business School in London, said it was hard to predict an upturn.

He said: "We get very mixed messages about what the world economy is doing, and shipping follows the world economy.

"We need to see more confidence, people consuming more, then we will start to see more orders and shipping will start moving again in order to move the cargos."

Prof Tamvakis added: "There is a very close correlation between world trade and shipping because 90% of goods traded is carried on ships."

Until world trade picks up, the ships in Loch Striven won't be going anywhere soon.

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