Image Courtesy: MSC
Image Courtesy: MSC

The container shipping fleet could break through the 20 million TEU barrier shortly and, with an estimated net addition of 0.68 million TEU of capacity for the full year, the milestone could be reached in June, according to BIMCO.

Over the last decade, the fleet size in TEU increased by 240% and reached 19.7 million TEU at the end of 2015, however, the fleet grew unevenly, displaying a shift to larger ship sizes and giving a one-sided focus on cutting unit costs per transported TEU by having larger ships, continuing the theme of “bigger is better”.

The ultra large containership segment (ULCS) especially contributed to the growth, starting at 0.5% in 2007 and currently accounts for 18% of the total fleet – as measured by TEU capacities, BIMCO said.

“The total containership fleet in TEU increased annually from 2006 onwards by 9%, in contrast to the number of ships which actually increased by only 3.7% on an annual basis. Despite the enormous growth of ULCS market share, the post-panamax fleet of 8,000 TEUs – 12,000 TEUs in relation to the total share and TEU capacity, is still the preferred shipping class, accounting for around ¼ of the container ship fleet,” Chief Shipping Analyst, Peter Sand, said.

When comparing the annual growth rate for the time frames 2006 – 2016 and 2011 – 2016, BIMCO said that the feeder class decreased by an average 4% per annum in relation to the time frame 2006 – 2016, with less than 500 TEUs per ship, while the decline accelerated even further by an additional 1% in the last five years.

Ship segments from feedermax (500 TEUs – 999 TEUs) to panamax (3,000+ TEUs), maintained a marginal positive annual growth between 2006 – 2016. However, only taking into account the time-frame from 2011 onwards, annual cutbacks of 1% – 2% occurred.

For the time-frame from 2006 – 2016, the post-panamax segment of 3,000 TEUs – 7,999 TEUs and 8,000 TEUs – 12,000 TEUs grew by 8% and 23% on average, per annum, respectively.

The largest annual growth of 45% between 2011 and 2016 was recorded for ULCS (12,000 TEUs), backing up the trend towards higher capacity boxships.

“The trend towards higher capacity container ships stands out during the 2006 – 2016 period and even accelerated in the last five years. Therefore, the driver towards the 20 million TEU margin was ultra large containerships and post-panamax between 8,000 TEUs – 12,000 TEUs,” Sand said.