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Box ship orders collapse

Box ship orders collapse
Orders for new container ships have dried up as vessel charter rates and ocean freight rates tumble and volume growth slows on key liner trade routes.

The collapse in orders affected all ship sizes

Orders for new container ships have dried up as vessel charter rates and ocean freight rates tumble and volume growth slows on key liner trade routes.

Enquiries to shipbuilders about new tonnage have ?hit the floor,? according to London-based Clarkson, the world"s biggest shipbroker ?With volumes and earnings stalling, owners" taste for newbuilds has slowed right down.?

The collapse in orders, which has affected all ship sizes, follows five straight years of historically high deliveries. Only 179 containerships were contracted in the first eight months of this year, down 49 percent on-year, Clarkson reports. This compares with a record 566 contracts in 2005, 479 in 2006 and 530 in 2007.

The monthly number of orders has been on a ?stark downward trend? since the final quarter of 2007, according to the broker. June was the only exception when a spate of 70 orders temporarily bucked the trend, bolstered by significant contracts placed by Maersk Line, the world's largest liner operator.

Container ship contracting has been hit by ?a good old double whammy? of slowing trade volumes and rising shipyard prices, Clarkson says.

Annual global container trade growth has dropped below the double-digit level this year for the first time since 2001. This has simultaneously triggered a slide in ocean freight rates and a decline in ship charter rates -- off about 20 percent year-to-date -- as carrier demand for additional tonnage slows. A 3,500-TEU gearless Panamax vessel is earning $26,000 a day on charter, down from $29,500 in June, and more than $12,000 off of average daily earnings in 2006.

Carriers and charter ship owners also are being quoted higher prices for new vessels.

With the cost of raw materials, particularly steel, rising, long order books already in place and relatively healthier demand from other shipping sectors, shipyards are under no pressure yet to drop prices.

A 3,500-TEU ship is being quoted at $67 million against $63 million at the end of 2007, while a 1,100-TEU vessel is unchanged at $27.5 million but still $5.5 million more than at the end of 2006.

Prices for previously-owned vessels, however, have eased with a 3,500-TEU ship fetching $46.5 million, down $3 million since the end of 2007.

With earnings slipping, charter owners who supply vessels to ocean carriers ?are finding it hard to reconcile the newbuild outlay with potential returns,? Clarkson observes.

The order famine still leaves an orderbook of 6.5 million TEUS, equal to 55 percent of the current fleet, a large portion made up of 10,000-12,000-TEU vessels.


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