© Khunaspix Dreamstime.

The number of idled containerships of over 7,500 teu has grown from none to 10 in recent months, as the opportunities for cascading redundant vessels into smaller trades diminishes with the weakening of global demand.

According to the latest idled tonnage report from Alphaliner, the number of containerships in short- or long-term lay-up has increased to 108 (297,600 teu) from 82 (228,400 teu) two weeks earlier.

Significantly, the idle fleet now includes four ships of more than 10,000 teu, laid up by G6 alliance members and previously deployed on the Asia-North Europe route, which have become surplus due to the alliance cancelling sailings and the delivery of even larger newbuild vessels.

Alphaliner speculated that the four G6 vessels could soon be joined by more surplus ships from troubled Asia-Europe tradelanes. They might include some Ocean 3 alliance 11,000-14,000 teu ships  affected by the group’s capacity rationalisation programme.

Following the alliance’s surprise announcement that it would cut around 20% of its weekly Asia-North Europe capacity for at least 12 weeks, O3 members were quick to put a positive commercial spin on the decision, declaring that removed ships would be deployed onto other trades rather than be idled for three months or more.

However, many are too big to be cascaded onto other trades, and also there is already too much capacity chasing too little cargo on those routes.

One carrier source told the Loadstar that redeploying surplus ships in the current weak markets was becoming a major headache for carrier tonnage centres under pressure from senior management to “keep the fleet moving”.

“There is a limit to the general repairs and surveys you can do,” he said.

The situation is, of course, being exacerbated by the incessant delivery of new ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs). It has been estimated that an average of one newbuild of over 13,000 teu will be delivered every week until the end of the year – with another 46 ULCVs scheduled for 2016.

Indeed, June saw the delivery of six containerships of over 14,000 teu, including the final two Maersk Line 18,340 teu Triple-Es and the 19,224 teu MSC Zoe.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Alphaliner reports that hard times could be returning for panamax containership owners as carrier requirements for ships for new Asia-US east coast services via the Panama Canal have been exhausted after absorbing around 60 units.

Weaker demand will make the employment prospects for the sector “dim”, said Alphaliner, especially for panamax tonnage that will come out of charter during the next few months.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.