© Enrico Powell |

Yang Ming’s conservative containership fleet expansion has seen the Taiwanese operator slip down the liner ranks.

In 2020, at the start of the Covid-fuelled boom, Yang Ming was the eighth-largest box line. Now it is overshadowed by peers that embarked on aggressive programmes of newbuilding orders and second-hand buys, and is ranked 10th.

Yang Ming took its time to order new ships, a process observers blamed on bureaucratic decision-making, as the Taiwanese state has a significant stake in the company. Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the National Development Fund maintain respective holdings of 13.39% and 13.17%.

In the meantime, South Korean flagship carrier HMM and Israel’s Zim Line, both ranked below Yang Ming, began building up their fleets.

Since 2021, HMM has ordered a dozen 13,600 teu ships, nine of 9,000 teu and three 1,800 teu feeder vessels; and in June 2022, it agreed to chartered a pair of 7,700 teu ships from Navios Maritime Partners for 14 years, due for delivery later this year. These capacity additions enabled HMM, whose capacity now stands at 801,308 teu, to overtake Yang Ming.

Zim, adopting an asset-light strategy, has chartered more than 100 ships since the pandemic, including ten 15,000 teu vessels that Seaspan Corp contracted at Samsung Heavy Industries, 15 7,000 teu newbuildings Seaspan commissioned at Yangzijiang Shipbuilding and six 5,300 teu ships Navios Maritime Partners ordered from Zhoushan Changhong International Shipyard.

The Haifa-based carrier took delivery of the final 15,000 vessel, Zim Mount Vinson, on 3 April. Zim has committed to the Seaspan ships for 12 years and the Navios vessels for five years. And, in 2022-2023, Zim agreed to charter a pair of 12,000 teu ships from Regional Container Lines for five years.

All this  brings its total capacity operated to 714,800 teu, lifting Zim over Yang Ming to ninth spot in the global carrier rankings.

In comparison, the capacity of Yang Ming, which ordered five 15,500 teu ships from Hyundai Heavy Industries last May, is languishing at 705,816 teu.

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