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MSC Container ship enters portCatstyecam / Shutterstock.com

Editorial Credit: Catstyecam / Shutterstock.com

Record Containership Capacity Delivered in 2024 Obscured By Longer Voyages

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1609
May 9, 2024

The shipping industry has witnessed a record delivery of 1 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) of container ship capacity in the first four months of 2024, an astounding 80% gain over the previous record, according to new numbers released by BIMCO.

The gain follows a record 2.3 million TEU delivered in 2023, beating the previous all-time record by 37%.

The figures underline the rapid expansion of the containership fleet in the post-COVID 19 era, which has now grown 3.5% since the start of the year on top of last year’s 8.2% fleet growth.

The surge in deliveries has led to a decline in the containership sector’s order book, which now stands at 6.1 million TEU, or 21% of the current fleet size—still about double its size prior to the COVID pandemic.

BIMCO says delivery volumes for the full year are projected to exceed 3 million TEU, a 30% jump from last year’s record. In 2025, deliveries are forecasted to fall slightly below 2 million TEU, which would make it the third-highest annual delivery volume behind 2023 and 2024.

However, BIMCO notes that these figures are not record-breaking when seen in relation to the fleet size. In 2024, deliveries are expected to represent 11% of fleet capacity at the start of the year, a mark most recently surpassed in 2008 when deliveries constituted 14% of the fleet.

Somewhat ironically, the record high ship deliveries, once seen as burdensome for the sector, have actually kept global container trade moving as ships are forced to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope amid Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. According to BIMCO, the longer voyages require about 10% more capacity than normal.

However, any return of sailings to the the Red Sea and Suez Canal would quickly lead to a significant oversupply of ship capacity. BIMCO points out that container volumes only grew 4% between 2019 and 2023, while the fleet grew 21%. Between 2023 and 2025, the fleet is expected to grow another 15%.

BIMCO’s report comes as container spot rates have increased after falling steadily during the post-Chinese New Year slack season. Drewry’s World Container Index jumped 16% on the week and now sits 81% above where it was a year ago as we head into the busier summer shipping season.

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