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Nippon Yusen K.K. will slash spending on new vessels by at least ¥260 billion as rates to transport commodities slump due to the swelling global fleet.

The planned cut would reduce spending to ¥1.54 trillion over the six years to March 2017, Japan’s biggest shipping line said Tuesday in a statement. Nippon Yusen and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., which operates the world’s largest merchant fleet, also lowered sales forecasts for the current fiscal year.

Returns from carrying dry bulk raw materials such as iron ore and grains have plunged this year as a glut of ships exceeds demand for cargoes, forcing Tokyo-based Sanko Steamship Co. to seek bankruptcy protection. Returns for capesize vessels, the largest commodity carriers, are down 81 percent since the start of 2012, according to the London’s Baltic Exchange.

“The bulker market is bad,” Shugo Aoto, head of finance at Mitsui O.S.K., told reporters in Tokyo. “We’re likely to see an increase in scrappings.”

The dry bulk fleet will expand 12 percent this year to 690.4 million deadweight tons, three times the projected 4 percent growth in demand, according to figures from Clarkson PLC, the leading global ship broker. Decommissioning capesizes may double to about 80 vessels this year, Aoto said.

Nippon Yusen cut its sales forecast for the 2012 financial year through next March to ¥1.96 trillion from ¥2 trillion, and Mitsui O.S.K. lowered its estimate to ¥1.55 trillion from ¥1.6 trillion. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the nation’s third-largest shipping operator, maintained its revenue projection at ¥1.13 trillion, a statement showed.

Nippon Yusen said its fleet will be reduced to 865 ships by 2017 from 876 as of March 31. However, Mitsui O.S.K. expects to be operating about 950 ships at the end of the current financial year, against 954 as of March.

All three companies narrowed their first-quarter losses as car shipments surged after automakers restored production, which was severely disrupted by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Vehicle exports more than tripled in April from a year earlier, the biggest gain since the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association starting compiling comparable data in 1973.

Nippon Yusen’s net loss shrank to ¥1.3 billion in the three months through June from ¥7.2 billion a year earlier, and Mitsui O.S.K. reported a contraction to ¥5.02 billion from ¥8.05 billion. Kawasaki Kisen’s losses narrowed to ¥674 million from ¥3.7 billion the previous year.

Domestic shipping companies also are having to contend with gains by the yen against the dollar, the currency used for the vast majority of shipping contracts. The yen gained 1.8 percent against the U.S. currency in the second quarter of 2012 to an average of ¥80.13, compared with ¥81.60 a year earlier.

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