In its latest Container Census 2015 report, Drewry Shipping Consultants said that ocean carriers are investing more heavily in new containerships but are less keen to spend money on new containers.
In 2014, despite some revival in the shipping lines’ direct investment in new box equipment, the majority was again acquired by leasing companies. The rental box fleet expanded by almost 9% during 2014, as against 4% for that owned (or financed) by the lines and other transport operators so that leasing companies now have the majority of the total container count.
According to Drewry, the box lease industry has historically tended to own the biggest share of equipment, although the situation changed markedly after 2004 when a financially strong container shipping industry took the lead and gained considerable ground within a few years. However, this ended abruptly with the recession of 2009, and leasing companies have since recovered virtually all of their earlier losses.
In this environment carriers have preferred to focus their investment on the latest generation of bigger and more fuel efficient containerships.
Drewry estimates that approximately US$10 billion was spent (by both shipping lines and non-operating companies) on new containership orders, totalling 1.06 million TEU worth of capacity in 2014. That figure will be surpassed in 2015 as already by the half-way stage of the year total investment on 1.14 million TEU reached $9.5 billion.
In contrast, shipping lines and other transport owners invested around $4.2 billion in new containers in 2014; a 17% rise on 2013 but still some 35% short of the 2011 outlay. In addition, shipping lines are estimated by Drewry to have received back around $1 billion for used equipment through sale and lease-back, thereby reducing the total net spend.
An old rule of thumb was that for every TEU of new containership capacity ordered there should be three additional container units – one for each end of the landside calls and one for the sea voyage.
The lease industry remains generally better placed to raise competitive finance for fleet expansion, having enjoyed five years of ready access to funding and strong investor support. This applies particularly to the top ranking companies, many of which are publicly owned or in the hands of sizeable private equity firms.
Drewry View: While shipping lines are in better financial shape now we still expect carriers to limit their container CAPEX and instead rely on leasing firms for much of their box requirements.
(Source: Maersk / Facebook)