Issued on 18 Jun 20
Burden of idling ships not equally shared between carriers
The inactive containership fleet has reached an all-time high of 2.72 Mteu at the end of May, equivalent to 11.6% of the overall fleet capacity. The burden of removing excess capacity from the market has, however, not been equally shared by all of the main carriers. Alphaliner’s latest fleet survey shows that the ‘inactive fleet share’ of the twelve largest carriers ranges from just 1.8% for Wan Hai to a massive 32.9% for HMM.
The 2M partners Maersk and MSC account for the bulk of the inactive fleet, with a combined total of 854,000 teu. However, more than half of this vessel inactivity is due to scrubber installations. MSC in particular still has a significant part of its fleet undergoing retrofit work at shipyards in China and Turkey.
Alphaliner expects the inactive fleet to peak shortly, as lockdowns across many countries are eased and a recovery in demand gets underway. There are encouraging signs that carriers have over-estimated the level of demand contraction in May, and capacity shortages on certain routes have already started to push spot freight rates up. Notably, spot freight rates from China to the US West Coast have surged to a 18-month high to reach $2,097/FEU on 29 May with roll-pools developing at various Chinese ports.
It remains to be seen if the higher rates will hold, as capacity is rapidly returning to the US West Coast. For the month of June, Alphaliner currently expects average weekly capacity at 10% above the levels of May as carriers re-instate blank sailings and add extra loaders. In an effort to take advantage of the stronger-than-expected demand, Zim has even announced the launch of a new Transpacific express service from the Far East to California.