2023 was yet another year that proved that shipping is never boring.

TradeWinds subscribers voted with their eyeballs that the stories that capture their interest most are about big money, untimely deaths and violence, according to our web traffic statistics.

When Hamas launched an attack on communities in southern Israel on 7 October, little did we realise it would set off a chain reaction that would culminate in TradeWinds’ most-read story of the year.

In an act of solidarity with Gazans facing the IDF’s wrath, Yemen’s Houthi rebels ‘declared war’ on Israel and began seaborne attacks on vessels believed to have links to Israel. Rami Ungar-owned Ray Car Carriers’ PCTC Galaxy Leader was an early victim.

The vessel was spectacularly hijacked on 19 November in the Red Sea — as is purportedly shown in this video — and taken to the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah where, at the time of writing, it remains.

Billion-dollar dilemma

There’s nothing like a big question to bring in big audiences. As 2023 began, TradeWinds asked an array of maritime leaders and stakeholders (and one chatbot) how they would invest a $1bn fund to make the industry both sustainable and profitable. A year is a long time in shipping, so how do those predictions look now?

Destination unknown

How close is the end of the road for tankers?’ was another big question tackled in our penultimate TW+ in April.

To answer that, look to the highways, not the ocean. Global car markets are driving change for crude and product carriers, but it is still hard to predict when oil demand will peak, Paul Peachey wrote.

Gone too soon

Shipping received a shock in May with the untimely death of a major industry figure.

Shipowner Bertram Rickmers died of injuries incurred when he fell down a flight of stairs at his villa during his wife’s 60th birthday celebrations.

The Hamburg-based owner hailed from one of Germany’s most illustrious shipping dynasties, whose history stretched back to 1934.

The untimely death of ‘towering’ British shipping lawyer Douglas Bateson in an Athens car crash also sparked much interest from our subscribers.

The Piraeus head of Penningtons Manches Cooper had built a solid reputation after four decades, and the 63-year-old’s death was described as “tragic” and “shocking” by those who knew him.

Casualty at sea

One of the year’s major shipping casualties occurred in the North Sea in July as the 6,210-ceu Fremantle Highway (built 2013) was engulfed in flames with the death of one seafarer.

Hundreds of electric vehicles were onboard the car carrier, which was heading to the Far East via the Suez Canal at the time. This has added to fears surrounding the transportation of such cargoes.

Trade choked

As much as geopolitical upheavals have reshaped shipping markets over the past two years, it was a largely natural phenomenon — somewhat exacerbated by man — that made an impact as 2023 drew to a close.

Low water levels in the drought-stricken Panama Canal have resulted in long waiting times for vessels waiting to transit the waterway, leading many vessels to divert their voyage around the southern tip of South America.

Owners and charterers desperate to get their ships through the Panama Canal drove slot auction prices to new records in the last quarter of 2023, paying as much as $2.85m to secure a place in the queue.

The situation is set to be a major theme of 2024 as we enter the region’s dry season.

China rising

Another story that went viral among our wider audience was the assessment that Greece is no longer the world’s biggest owner of merchant tonnage, having been toppled from its decade-long standing at the top by China.

The Chinese-owned fleet has grown strongly since 2015, backed by investment in bulkers and container ships to edge ahead, according to shipbroker Clarksons Research.