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World boxship fleet update: Tonnage providers return to yards

Containership tonnage suppliers are making a foray back into the boxship new building market as the historically low orderbook begins to look attractive again.

Figures from Lloyd’s List Intelligence put the aggregate capacity of the global fleet at 23.1m teu at the end of January, up a mere 64,000 teu on where it stood at the end of 2020. And with only 2.4m teu on order, the ratio of orders to the existing fleet is just 10.6%. That may seem like a large amount of capacity, but it needs to be seen in the context of demand. The past year, which has seen the worst economic conditions since the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, led to a fall in containerised volumes of just 1.2%.

Recent carrier results and forecasts indicate that there is unlikely to be any significant slowdown in demand in the near future and they have already utilised nearly every ship on the water. Lay-up figures recorded by Lloyd’s List Intelligence put the amount of capacity sitting idle at just 1.4% of the fleet. Against that supply and demand background, it is unsurprising that carriers would start to return to the yards in search of more capacity. But it is not only the carriers buying on their own books.

Recent orders and announcements have seen tonnage providers moving back into the market, particularly when those orders can be backed by long-term charters. It emerged earlier this week that Seaspan had ordered 10 15,000 teu dual fuel liquefied natural gas containership new buildings at Samsung Heavy Industries on the back of a 12-year charter with Zim. This is Seaspan’s first investment in LNG-powered containerships.

The deal value was not disclosed but Samsung said it had signed a deal to build five vessels worth Won781bn ($707m). Separately, Seaspan has also been linked toa deal with Yangzijiang Shipbuilding that includes two of a four-ship 24,000 teu order, with China’s CDB Financial Leasing taking the other pair. Although it has not been confirmed, sources close to the deal pointed to Geneva-headquartered Mediterranean Shipping Co as the vessel charterer.

The carrier ordered a similar sextet financed by Chinese lessors in the past year. But it is not just charter-linked ships that are being ordered. Greece-based owner Minerva Marineis understood to be behind a pair of 13,000 teu new buildings from Samsung Heavy Industries, which are thought to be options taken out by the owner and compatriot owner Capital Maritime has also exercised options for two more 13,000 teu ships.

Lloyd’s List understands that Capital has contractual options for further ships of the same size. In a recent webinar, Jerry Kalogiratos, chief executive of Capital’s New York-listed affiliate Capital Product Partners, said the market had reacted reasonably to the current crisis. “We have seen the orderbook move from historical lows of 8% to 10%, which is a very small increase and a reasonable orderbook historically speaking,” he said.

The majority of those orders had been ultra-large containerships ordered by container line companies. MPC Container Ships chief executive Constantin Baack also pointed to the size range of ships ordered to date as another reason to be positive about the orderbook. “We need order when we look at the supply and demand situation,” he said. “We will see demand growth and the orderbook has been increasing, but between 1,000 teu and 10,000 teu there is negative growth.

“With the slow lead time of shipbuilding, however, this was not likely to be resolved soon, but non-operating owners would do well out of the shortage of capacity in the meantime”, said Euroseas chairman Aristides Pittas. “One thing that has happened is that we do not have enough ships for the current situation,” Mr Pittas said. “Supply for at least the next two years is constrained. Growth at just 10% of the fleet is not that much with scrapping and slippage factored in. If demand develops as people expect, we should be in for a couple of good years.”

Source: Lloyds Loading List

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