Active box ship fleet continues to grow, despite tepid rates


Despite record newbuild containership deliveries in January and only relatively weak recent freight rate gains, lines remain reluctant to take capacity out of circulation, according to Alphaliner.

The container shipping analyst said January was a record month for containership deliveries, with 228,000 teu of newbuilding capacity handed over so far. Even so, “this has not been sufficient to meet carriers’ demand for extra tonnage”.

Alphaliner noted that the idle containership fleet of over 500 teu capacity vessels had continued to shrink this month − falling to only 82 ships (301,116 teu) on 22 January, down from 416,640 teu a month before.

It said January also did not see any containership scrap sales reported as, for the first time in seven years, scrapping activity came to a complete halt. As a result of the very high vessel pick-up rate, the active fleet − total fleet less idle fleet − has now reached 20.98m teu, 10.8% higher than the same time last year, according to the analyst.

“The active fleet is expected to continue to grow in the next two weeks as demand peaks before the Lunar New Year holidays in mid-February,” said Alphaliner. “The rapid fleet growth will only cease temporarily at the end of February and early March as carriers start to implement their usual void sailing programs in the two weeks immediately after the holidays in Asia.”

Demand is then expected to pick up strongly in April when a raft of new service launches are already scheduled by lines. “Both the Asia-Europe and transpacific trade are expected to see new capacity introduced, while new services in the South America, Africa and Intra-Asia trades have also been announced,” added Alphaliner.

Another container shipping analyst told Lloyd’s Loading List that lines are reluctant to take out capacity at the current time because utilisation on East-West trades is currently high and the recent wave of consolidation means that lines are trying to keep hold of customers – “that is, when two lines become one, they don’t want to shed any customers, and therefore are competing on rates”.