Fully cellular containership growth has outpaced world port throughput for the fourth year in a row and is now rapidly approaching 20 million TEU, according to the latest container insight weekly by Drewry Maritime Advisors.
By the end of 2015 the world’s fully cellular containership fleet consisted of approximately 5,200 vessels with an aggregate capacity of 19.8 million TEU.
Another couple of million TEU of capacity can be added to the total when container slots from general cargo ships are included in the calculation.
Since the start of the century the cellular fleet has grown fourfold in TEU terms and will pass the 20 million milestone sometime in the next few months.
Last year saw the largest ever influx of containership capacity as the cellular fleet swelled by around net 1.55 million TEU, surpassing the 1.35 million TEU added in 2006, which was subsequently very nearly matched in the following two years.
Last year’s slowdown in the rate of scrapping of older vessels from 380,000 TEU to only 150,000 TEU, also helped set the new record.
In percentage terms the cellular containership fleet increased by 8.5% in 2015, the biggest annual rise since 2010.
Drewry believe that carriers are faced with an impossible task of matching supply with demand as predicting the latter when ordering ships years in advance is far from being an exact science, but the expanding gap between supply and demand growths is one of the drivers of the recent slump in industry profits.
Shipowners’ focus on bigger ships and the economies of scale they offer has seen the average size of vessel more than double since 2000 to reach 3,700 TEU in 2015.
In 2015, the average size of newbuild delivered was around 8,400 TEU, while a new record for the largest ship deployed was attained.
Ships of 10,000 TEU or above now constitute approximately 22% of the cellular containership fleet, having only taken up around 4% at the end of 2011.
The Drewry View: The gap between supply and demand growths will narrow in the next few years but the accumulated overcapacity will need to be addressed somehow to restore balance.