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Container ship order book doubled up in 2021

2021 is a spectacular year in container shipping.

Freight rates are record high, more cargo than ever before is shipped on the transpacific trade lane specifically and globally in general, and the previous annual record on new orders for container ship capacity has just been breached – in less than eight months.

619 container ships are now on order for future delivery, 381 in 2021 alone, and never has 3.44m TEU being ordered in such a short time span. Still, it’s not a record for the total orderbook, as 6.8m TEU were on order by the end of July 2008, compared to 5.3m TEU today.

“Today the container ship order book holds 5.3m TEU of shipping capacity. This set to be added into the fleet from 2023 and onwards.

Going into 2021, the order book only stood at 2.5m TEU. Since then, a record high 3.3m TEU has been ordered. Ship owners really like to invest in the business they now.

Size still matters, but it’s no longer the only thing. Your ships must be ready to fit emerging trade lanes – and many of them will be scrubber-fitted,” says Peter Sand, BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst.

A 16,000 TEU ship was the most popular order

60 container ships with a cargo carrying capacity of 16,000 TEU each were ordered in February, March, April, and June by just five different owners. The one half of them was ordered by two Top-4 tonnage providers and one minor, and the other half by operating liner companies.

“It’s very much a sign of times too, you go big, or you don’t go at all. You place order for 4, 5 and 6 ship or as much as 20 units in one go, at one yard only. The buying power when you’re spending USD 2.5bn is significant,” says Peter Sand.

As owners see a somewhat different trade pattern developing in recent years and very much right now, due to the US-China trade war and the COVID-19 outbreak, the more ‘versatile’ 13,000-16,000 TEU have been preferred to the Ultra-Large Container Ships (ULCS).

No more than 22 ULCS was ordered during the initial seven and half months of 2021. In February, 14 units of 24,000-24,100 TEU ships were ordered and in June another 8 units of 23,500-24,000 TEU followed.

Fitting a scrubber to your newbuilt proved popular too

In particular for the larger ships, those that lower their voyage costs the most from consuming the less costly heavy-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO). Out of the 168 container ships that was ordered, with a capacity of at least 11,800 TEU, 117 will be delivered with a scrubber fitted directly from the shipyard (71%). 29 units will be scrubber-fitted but also LNG-ready whereas 34 units will be delivered as ‘LNG-capable’, meaning that they will run on gas from day one. 17 appears to be without any such modifications upon delivery.

Ships are never delivered as scheduled in the orderbook

Container shipping capacity of 1.5m TEU has been ordered so far in 2021, for delivery in each of the years 2023 and 2024. As the scheduled orderbook for 2024 today stands at 2.15m TEU, it’s worth noticing, that the record delivery year, date back to 2015, where 1.66m TEU entered active service on the global container lines’ networks.

Due to this inherent bias, BIMCO always account for a certain delay in schedules deliveries, when we aim at forecasting what will actually get delivered in any given year. Our current estimate suggests that the 2015 delivery record will not be broken. For an update on this, please see our quarterly Shipping Market Overview & Outlook, the third of which this year is due in early September.

“On top of orders for container ships, we have also seen some liner companies securing air cargo shipping capacity for the short and longer term.

To me that is in interesting development, as it indicated that liners are serving shippers, to a greater extent than before by moving more cargo in more ways going forward,” concludes Sand.
Source: BIMCO by Peter Sand, Chief Shipping Analyst

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