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MSC Tessa, one of the world's largest containerships, under construction at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai, China. Photo courtesy CSSC.

MSC Tessa, one of the world's largest containerships, under construction at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai, China. Photo courtesy CSSC

Record Wave of New Containerships Expected to Push Global Fleet Above 30 Million TEU

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3235
January 10, 2024

The global containership fleet is set to exceed the 30-million TEU mark for the first time in history in 2024, as a wave of new containerships hit the water, according to BIMCO.

The global fleet grew by 8% last year with the delivery of 350 new container ships representing a record 2.2 million TEU, beating the previous record set in 2015 when 1.7 million TEU hit the water.

In 2024, however, a staggering 478 container ships with a capacity of 3.1 million TEU are scheduled for delivery, beating the 2023’s record by 41%. As a result, the container fleet capacity is expected to grow by 10% in 2024.

While recycling of ships is anticipated to increase in 2024, the fleet could still grow by nearly 2.8 million TEU, surpassing the 30-million TEU milestone by the end of 2024 for the first time ever.

Ships larger than 15,000 TEU are dominating deliveries. According to BIMCO, the segment grew 28% last year with 1.3 million TEU delivered and additional 83 ships are expected to be delivered in 2024, adding 1.4 million TEU to the segment’s capacity and doubling its capacity in just four years.

BIMCO’s report also highlights that Chinese yards have officially solidified their position as the premiere builders of containerships, accounting for nearly 55% of the capacity delivered in 2023 and 2024—beating South Korea’s 38% share of capacity.

The fleet capacity growth comes as the growth in container trades is expected to be significantly slower, with a projected 3-4% increase in demand for ship capacity in 2024.

Meanwhile, BIMCO points out that the average sailing speed of container ships decreased in 2023 and could potentially fall even further in 2024, reducing fleet efficiency and requiring an additional 3-4% capacity to accommodate the volume increase in 2024.

Bottom line is the supply and demand imbalance is expected to widen in 2024, but prolonged disruption in the Red Sea could potentially tighten the balance as containerships embark on longer voyages around the Cape of Good Hope, masking overcapacity in the market. But the delivery of 3 million TEU in 2025-2026 and the lack of recycling could lead to overcapacity if the Red Sea situation is resolved.

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