Idled containership capacity has shrunk by 28% in the past two weeks to 696,000 teu, according to Alphaliner.
And the maritime consultant said it expected the laid-up cellular fleet to dip below 500,000 teu by June.
Alphaliner attributed the dramatic “sharpest-ever decline” to a “scramble” by carriers to roll out their new alliance networks on 1 April.
However, the impact of vessel scrapping has also been significant.
The latest weekly data from London shipbroker Braemar ACM records the scrapping total this year at 85 vessels, or 268,000 teu, with the demolition market on course to eclipse last year’s record of 189 ships (658,000 teu).
So far this year, newbuild delivery is only 43 vessels, but adds a total capacity of 287,500 teu, reflecting the emphasis on big ships in yard orderbooks.
Meanwhile, the 204 ships remaining idle at 17 April, representing 4.8% of the global fleet compares with the 351 vessels for 1.4m teu (6.9% of the global fleet) at the beginning of the year.
Alphaliner data records just four ships of 12,000 teu and over currently without employment, in contrast to 12 in early January. In the 8,000-11,999 teu sector the drop has been even greater, with just 15 idle, versus 55 anchored at lay-up in early March.
And the demand for “classic” panamax ships continues apace: the 4,300-5,300 teu workhorses are in demand for general short-period hires. Although on paper, 32 more of these vessels are available for charter, Alphaliner notes that just seven are “spot”, meaning that the other 25 units, currently in cold lay-up, would need up to two months for reactivation, depending on the dry-docking required.
It was announced last week that four of these panamax vessels in cold lay-up are being acquired by Greek shipowner Navios in a distress sale of 14 from the soon-to-be-wound-up Rickmers Maritime.
Unsurprisingly, as a shortage of container tonnage is reported in some sizes, charter rates have soared. In the panamax sector, daily hire rates have leapt to around $11,000 a day, from $8,000 a month ago and the sub-economic $4,000 per day or below seen earlier this year.
Brokers are also reporting that owners of panamax vessels, and small sizes in general, are demanding stricter terms, regarding positioning and options, and are reluctant to fix for long periods, believing the market is at the beginning of a recovery curve.
However, it remains to be seen how long the bullish containership charter market will continue, given that carriers will seek to off-hire as much chartered-in tonnage as possible once the alliance networks have bedded in, as they seek to trim their operating costs.
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Source: The Loadstar