Containership Owners Rapidly Idling Vessels As Market Slows, Drewry Says

Photo: VladSV/Shutterstock.com
Photo: VladSV/Shutterstock.com

The world’s idle containership fleet swelled to 238 vessels and topped 900,000 TEU in November as owners rapidly lay up containerships as the market slows, according to new figures from the global shipping consultancy Drewry Maritime Consultants.

The new figures represent a 54% increase from October to November to reach 901,000 TEU, the largest monthly sum since early 2010 following the market crash of 2009. The idle fleet now accounts for 4.6% of the world’s total, which is still some way off the peak of around 11% seen at the end of 2009, according to Drewry.

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Drewry attributes the monthly surge to bigger ships being laid up. According to Drewry data, there was a total of 31 inactive ships of 8,000 teu or above as of 16 November, including the 18,000 teu “Triple-E” Morten Maersk.

“The idling of such big assets is not done lightly, but the growing size of this sector shows that carriers have understood that slow steaming and missed sailings are insufficient on their own to address the problem of overcapacity in the East-West trades,” Drewry said.

Looking ahead, Drewry says that the size of the idle fleet will likely get bigger as rates and profits continue to slide.

“To lay-up or not to lay-up, that is the question owners of containerships will be asking themselves during the fourth quarter as demand for their assets wanes.” Drewry says.”More and more, it will be answered in the affirmative.”

Last month, data from container shipping analyst Alphaliner showed 263 idled containerships, totaling 934,700 TEU and representing 4.7% of the total global fleet. Alphaliner’s data included 23 ships of 7,500 teu or more.

Drewry noted it classifies a ship as idle when it has been stationary for a minimum of 14 days, so so-called missed voyages do not count as these vessels continue to sail without calling at ports so that they can be easily fitted back into the schedule.