storm of radical capacity cuts by carriers and US president Donald Trump’s
threat to hike tariffs on Chinese goods could see many more containerships
laid-up, according to Alphaliner.
has warned, according to The Loadstar that over a quarter of container trade on
the transpacific could be at risk from the escalating US-China tit-for-tat
A survey on
3 September shows, Alphaliner notes, 143 idled ships, for 408,283 teu
representing 1.8% of the total global cellular fleet.
It said: “Idled numbers are expected to rise in the coming weeks
due to service cancellations for the winter slack season.”
Alphaliner noted that that the service cuts announced so far
were “significantly more severe” than those in 2017.
The 2M alliance partners, Maersk Line and MSC, are “temporarily
suspending” their AE2/Swan Asia-North Europe loop, with the last sailing from
China on 22 September.
The 11 vessels deployed on the loop – eight by MSC and three by
Maersk – have an average capacity of 19,250 teu and will need to find
alternative employment for the indefinite suspension.
Today, Maersk told customers it would blank the AE2 service “one
week prior to the already announced cancellations”.
Alphaliner suggests the ULCVs could be deployed on other Asia to
Europe strings, replacing smaller tonnage, which will face a period of lay-up.
These surplus large ships and the impact of the delivery of more
newbuild ULCVs appears to be the primary source for the expected big spike in
In general, with the exception of the very smallest box tonnage,
under 1,000 teu, where demand is weak due to economies of scale, the charter
market in the smaller sectors remains robust. And panamax container vessels are
still much in demand.
One Hamburg broker told The Loadstar this week he had fixed a
4,250 teu ship for a six-month charter, with a six-month option, for just shy
of $14,000 a day.
“The market in the smaller sizes is strong,” he said, “these
hire rates are not much less than we can get for ships twice the size.”
This was confirmed by Alphaliner, which said: “Charter rates for
VLCS and LCS [large container ships] units are particularly unimpressive, being
in some cases, hardly any higher than what substantially smaller classic
panamaxes can currently obtain.”
It continued: “The [charter] market outlook is uncertain.
Despite sustained cargo volumes on many routes, the overall operating
environment remains challenging for carriers.”
It added that continued operating losses suffered by many
carriers would “inevitably result in more service restructurings”, which
Alphaliner said would “affect the demand for tonnage, at least for certain ship
Nonetheless, with hurricanes and typhoons disrupting carriers’
schedules, Alphaliner notes that the “ill wind” is providing a fillip for
containership owners as lines need to charter extra tonnage to fill the gaps
left by delayed vessels.