Maersk is leading the way in laying-up surplus tonnage while demand remains weak across the main east-west tradelanes, but the carrier could leave itself exposed to aggressive market share grabs by rivals.
According to an Alphaliner survey, Maersk tops the ocean carrier idle tonnage rankings, with 29 ships with a capacity of 281,400 teu, in lay-up, including 17 of more than 7,500 teu.
Maersk is followed by its 2M partner, MSC, which has 13 vessels idled with a capacity of 119,000 teu, of which seven are over 7,500 teu. Interestingly, that idle tonnage count includes the recently delivered largest containership in the world, the 24,346 teu MSC Irina, which is being phased in to the 2M’s AE10/Jade Asia-North Europe loop this week.
And while Maersk has opted to idle ships, including newbuilds, MSC has sought to redeploy more of its surplus tonnage to other routes or new services.
According to the consultant’s analysis, Maersk’s alliance carrier rivals appear more reluctant to mothball ships, preferring instead to scrap for market share and ride out the downturn.
Indeed, on the Asia-North Europe tradelane, the 2M is the only alliance that has so far officially suspended a service, the AE1/Shogun loop. THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance continue to blank services on the route, but have not announced any network suspensions.
In fact, Hapag-Lloyd confirmed to The Loadstar last week that THEA members would continue to route some Asia-North Europe backhaul voyages via the Cape of Good Hope, as part of capacity management, “as long as it makes sense from an economic perspective and does not impact the phase-in of the new THEA product”.
In contrast to liner operators, containership owners are not having a problem finding new employment for their vessels on secondary trades, as global recession fears start to diminish.
Meanwhile, Alphaliner has recorded its first decline this year in the idle boxship fleet: it fell in the past two weeks by 37 units, and 114,311 teu, to 300 ships with a capacity of 1,565,624 teu, representing 6% of the global cellular fleet.
“The sustained demand for tonnage has seen nearly all the NOO (non-operating containership owner) spot vessels finding new employment, with only three ships now available for charter globally, versus 20 at the beginning of February,” said Alphaliner.
The new fixtures included ten 4,300 teu panamax vessels that were open in Asia and have found new charters, which the consultant described as “quite remarkable”.
Not only has the new activity seen a firming of daily hire charter rates, but in some instances the more energy-efficient ships are starting to achieve premiums.
Confirming a resurgence in the containership charter market, London-based shipbroker Braemar reported “a busy week”, with “more than 20 reported fixtures, ranging from 700 teu feeder vessels to 10,000 teu post-panamax types”.
By Mike Wackett