Global ageing containerfleet and expected newbuild orders

The ageing global container fleet will likely see a raft of newbuild orders placed this year and next, despite future propulsion concerns.

It is anticipated that there will be a pick up in new boxship orders in 2021 and 2022, following on from a sudden spurt of ultra large boxship orders seen in Q4 last year. During the past five years, 2016 to 2020, 4.3m teu was ordered, while 7.3m teu was ordered in the preceding five years.

The trading container fleet has an average age of 13.5 years. Ten years ago the average age was just nine years The trading fleet is ageing, and newbuilding investment is expected to increase. Additionally, the recent scramble for charter tonnage is likely to prompt liner companies to bolster their owned fleet, in a strategy to reduce liner exposure during a cargo surge.

The six to 12 month rate for a 4,400 teu boxship increased by 7% week-on-week to $29,000 a day, 105% above the 2020 average. In the smaller sizes, the six to 12 month rate for a 2,750 teu vessel rose 4% week-on-week to $20,750 a day as of last Friday, 92% above the 2020 average.
As of January 1 this year, the trading container fleet had an average age of 13.5 years. Ten years ago, the average age was just nine years.

The sub-panamax trading fleet is ageing the most notably. Up to 4,000 teu, there are currently 880 vessels aged 20 years or more. It is expected that number will increase to 1,150 by 2025 after allowing for assumed demolition. With those statistics, ordering of feeders and regional ships should gain momentum over the next couple of years.

In 2020, 135 container ships with a total capacity of 1.23m teu were ordered, up 90% compared to 2019. Ordering in 2020 focussed on ultra large tonnage ordered during the final quarter and feeders, which were contracted throughout the year.
Chinese shipyards control most of the containership orderbook, with a 43% share, followed by South Korea on 35% and Japan on 21%.

During 2020, Chinese yards secured 60% of the containerships ordered in 2020. China’s dominance of the containership order book is likely to continue, especially if more feeders and regional ships are contracted.

It is estimated that fleet growth for full-year 2020 was 2.8%, compared to 3.9% in 2019. Annual fleet growth for the last five years – 2016 to 2020 – has averaged 3.5% per year. With the current orderbook, the broker expects the annual average fleet growth for the next four years – 2021 to 2024 – to average about 2.5% per year.

Containerships rates should remain elevated with vast GDP growth and consumer spending while the containership orderbook-to-fleet ratio is the lowest in decades.

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Mr Sam Chambers