Box capacity rebounds

[intro] Global container shipping capacity is rebounding as ocean cargo carriers reactivate their idle container fleets for the summer peak shipping season, according to industry analyst Alphaliner. [/intro]

Over the last month, fleet reactivation had slashed by almost a third the capacity earlier idled by shipping operators, Alphaliner said. In the four days to May 7 alone, 22,766 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of idle containers were added to the active capacity, data supplied by Alphaliner showed. The decline in the idle fleet over the last month has added vessel capacity equivalent to 293,000 TEUs to global trade lanes, which could slow or erode freight rate increases imposed in recent months to and from China.

[quote] However, the container ship fleet will not return to full employment anytime soon, since the delivery of new vessel capacity is expected to push idle figures up again by the end of the year [/quote]

The industry watcher said as of May 7, there were 5,986 ships active on liner trades, accounting for 16,328,983 TEUs and tonnage of 211,331,922 deadweight tons.

The figure includes 4,940 fully cellular ships carrying 15,844,242 TEUs. Cellular ships are specially designed for the efficient stacking of containers with vertical bracings at the four corners.

Alphaliner said the total existing cellular fleet (all sizes and all positions) stood at 4,944 ships for 15,845,696 TEUs.
There was the same number of vessels active on the trade lanes on May 3 with 16,306,217 TEUs of cargo and 211,113,057 DWT. The fleet included 4,939 fully cellular ships for 15,821,311 TEUs.

Rates on lanes connecting to China have increased by an average of 38 percent on the China Containerized Freight Index since January, Alphaliner said.

Alphaliner figures show that the idle box capacity, which stood at 913,000 TEUs in mid-March, had fallen 32 percent to 620,000 TEUs by April 30. New services scheduled for launch this quarter are expected to bring the idle fleet below 350,000 TEUs by July.

The Journal of Commerce said in a report that “reduction of the idle fleet provides some relief for the charter market, which has suffered from depressed rates for most of the last three years.

“However, the container ship fleet will not return to full employment anytime soon, since the delivery of new vessel capacity is expected to push idle figures up again by the end of the year,” the weekly trade magazine said.

Alphaliner said the current downturn is unprecedented in both duration and intensity. Historical box ship idling data it compiled showed the ship fleet enjoyed close to full employment before 2009.

The impact of previous container shipping downturns has been much milder than the current dip. Their effect was usually felt for less than 12 months, with modest unemployment levels. The downturn in 2002 lasted for about 10 months, and vessel unemployment peaked at only 3.2 percent of the fleet.

Source: Malaya Business Insight