Lebanon’s property market ‘on the brink of collapse’

An unfinished building under construction with cranes in the Lebanese capital Beirut. AFP
Updated 10 December 2018
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Lebanon’s property market ‘on the brink of collapse’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s once soaring property market is on the brink of collapse amid plunging prices and a construction standstill.
A boom that began in 2008 fueled by sales to Gulf state citizens and Lebanese expatriates was halted by war in Syria in 2011 and the oil-price slump in 2014, and has since gone into reverse.
Property prices outside Beirut have fallen by nearly 20 percent. In the capital, buyers are few and high-profile construction projects have ground to a halt.
“Some 3,600 unsold apartments exist today in Beirut alone,” says Guillaume Boudisseau of the property consultants Ramco.
Bank and property companies launched a $250 million scheme in October to buy more than 200 flats and sell them to Lebanese expatriates. But Jihad Hokayem, a property investment expert at the Lebanese American University, said such initiatives were temporary fixes.
“These measures only cover up existing or potential bankruptcies. It’s the beginning of a total collapse,” he said.
Economic expert Louis Hobeika told Arab News apartments in Beirut still commanded prices above $700,000, and what was happening was a correction.
“There is no demand,” he said. “Those who want to buy are going after real estate outside Lebanon, with incentives such as residency. The Lebanese are starting to buy in Cyprus, Portugal and Malta.”
Another economist, Essam Al-Jardi, said: “Developers invested billions of dollars in luxury buildings during the boom, but the economy has declined and growth is only 1 percent.
“I am afraid of any mistake that may push the country into the unknown.”


Fujairah joins other ports, tightens exhaust rules ahead of 2020 regulations

Updated 23 January 2019
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Fujairah joins other ports, tightens exhaust rules ahead of 2020 regulations

  • Under International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that come into effect from 2020, ships will have to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel to less than 0.5 percent
  • Singapore, China and Fujairah marine sales volumes represent a quarter of global ship refueling, also known as bunkering

SINGAPORE: Fujairah in the UAE has become the latest major port to ban a type of fuel exhaust cleaning system to comply with a coming tightening in rules regarding global sulfur emissions, mirroring similar moves in Singapore and China.
Under International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that come into effect from 2020, ships will have to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel to less than 0.5 percent, compared with 3.5 percent now, forcing huge changes upon global shippers and also oil refiners.
Fujairah’s harbor master said in a faxed document seen by Reuters that the port “has decided to ban the use of open-loop scrubbers in its waters ... (and) ships will have to use compliant fuel once the IMO 2020 sulfur cap comes into force.”
This follows top marine fueling port of Singapore announcing a similar move in November, while China banned the use of open-loop scrubbers from Jan. 1, 2019.
Singapore, China and Fujairah marine sales volumes represent a quarter of global ship refueling, also known as bunkering.
Impact for shippers
To comply with IMO 2020 rules, shippers can switch to burning cleaner but more expensive oil, invest in exhaust cleaning systems known as scrubbers that may allow them to still use cheaper high-sulfur fuels, or redesign vessels to run on alternatives like liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Scrubbers use water to clean up fuel emissions, preventing them from being released into the atmosphere.
Open-loop scrubbers are the cheapest option, but they have come under criticism as they wash heavy metals and sulfur from the waste water into seas instead of storing it for a controlled discharge in ports, as closed-loop scrubbers do.
Of the more than 2,000 ships that have so far opted to invest in scrubbers, around three-quarters have installed the cheaper, open-loop type, shipping sources estimated.
Closed-loop scrubbers, which store wash water for later discharge, are still accepted in most ports.
Despite the spreading bans of open-loop scrubbers, Douglas Raitt of ship classifier Lloyd’s Register said vessels can still benefit from such systems as they can pump out the waste water in open seas, outside a port’s jurisdiction.
“The benefits of open-loop scrubbers are largely realized in open water during transit from one port to the next,” he said.
Raitt said shippers, however, should consider alternative measures to prepare for IMO 2020, considering that when the new rules come into force refueling infrastructure will be mostly geared toward compliant low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) rather than high sulfur fuel oil (HSFO).
“Prevailing wisdom would be for operators opting for scrubbers to have a meaningful dialogue with their supplier base to secure HSFO post-2020 in ports of call,” Raitt said.