• 1 year
  • 6 months
  • 3 months
  • 1 month

How it works

Every working day, a panel of international shipbrokers submits their view of current freight cost on various routes to the Baltic Exchange. The routes are meant to be representative, i.e. large enough in volume to matter for the overall market.
These rate assessments are then weighted together to create both the overall BDI and the sizespecific Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize indices. The BDI factors in the four different sizes of oceangoing dry bulk transport vessels:


Ship Classification

Dead Weight Tons

% of World Fleet

% of Dry Bulk Traffic












18% w/ Handysize




18% w/Supramax


The BDI contains route assessments both on the basis of "USD paid per ton carried" (i.e. before fuel, port and other voyage dependent costs are deducted) and "USD paid per day" (i.e. after voyage dependent costs are deducted, often called "Time charter equivalent earnings"). Fuel (="Bunkers") is the largest voyage dependent cost and moves with the crude oil price. In periods where bunker costs fluctuate significantly, there BDI will therefore move more than the shipowners' realised earnings.


Why economists and stock markets read it

Most directly, the index measures the demand for shipping capacity versus the supply of dry bulk carriers. The demand for shipping varies with the amount of cargo that is being traded or moved in various markets (supply and demand).
The supply of cargo ships is generally both tight and inelastic — it takes two years to build a new ship, and ships are too expensive to take out of circulation the way airlines park unneeded jets in deserts. So marginal increases in demand can push the index higher quickly, and marginal demand decreases can cause the index to fall rapidly. e.g. "if you have 100 ships competing for 99 cargoes, rates go down, whereas if you've 99 ships competing for 100 cargoes, rates go up. In other words, small fleet changes and logistical matters can crash rates..." The index indirectly measures global supply and demand for the commodities shipped aboard dry bulk carriers, such as building materials, coal, metallic ores, and grains.
Because dry bulk primarily consists of materials that function as raw material inputs to the production of intermediate or finished goods, such as concrete, electricity, steel, and food, the index is also seen as an efficient economic indicator of future economic growth and production. The BDI is termed a leading economic indicator because it predicts future economic activity.
Because it provides "an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea," according to The Baltic, "... it provides both a rare window into the highly opaque and diffuse shipping market and an accurate barometer of the volume of global trade -- devoid of political and other agenda concerns."