Container trade growth expected to hit 10% this year
Asian demand to act as a catalyst as Clarksons and Alphaliner amend their 2010 outlook
Global container volumes are expected to recover significantly from last year"s collapse as economic conditions stabilise, with stronger demand contributing to a considerable decline in the size of the unemployed fleet.
Clarksons has revised its forecast for 2010 and now expects the container trades to expand by 7.5% this year. That is an upwards revision from its February projection of 5.5%, and follows last year"s decline of almost 10%.
Alphaliner is even more upbeat about prospects for 2010, with the company anticipating growth in excess of 10% this year as exports from Asia pick up.
The latest forecasts come as lines start to accept that the surge in cargo volumes that began late last year may be more than just inventory replenishment. Carriers were caught out by the increase in demand that continued over the winter months, leaving them uncertain about whether the improvement represented genuine recovery since consumer spending in many parts of the world remained weak.
But forward bookings indicate that the higher cargo liftings will continue through to the summer, according to some lines contacted by Lloyd"s List.
Requirements for more tonnage to meet shipper needs have pushed idle containership capacity down to the lowest level for more than a year as lines reactivate tonnage as demand picks up from the 2009 slump.
Latest data from Alphaliner puts the idle fleet at 8.9% of the total. This is the first time the figure has dropped below 9% since February 2009.
The fortnightly survey found that 455 ships were inactive at the end of March, representing 1.18m teu and the lowest level for 13 months.
Alphaliner said that carrier-controlled inactive capacity fell faster than the idle fleet belonging to non-operating owners, with a hefty decline from the peak of 1.04m teu in March 2009 to 596,000 teu a year later.
Furthermore, a new round of idle tonnage reactivations in the coming month could see the carrier-controlled unemployed fleet fall below 500,000 teu as operators prepare for the forthcoming summer peak season, the company said in its latest report.
This reduction in boxship lay-ups is expected to happen despite the projected influx of 150,000 teu of new vessel deliveries scheduled for this month. The launch of new services and the resumption of strings withdrawn over the past year will absorb some 60 ships in the 3,500 teu-6,500 teu range in the course of the next few weeks.
The fleet in the hands of non-operating owners has also seen its idle numbers fall from its peak last November. At the end of last month, this idle fleet stood at 315 vessels of 582,000 teu capacity, compared with 392 vessels idle in November of 686,000 teu.
The pool of unemployed vessels of under 3,000 teu remains dominated by tramp owners, who are struggling to find profitable employment at this time, Alphaliner said. It also reported that deliveries of new boxships are set to surge in the second quarter of 2010 to 430,000 teu. That follows the delivery of 70 new vessels of 307,000 teu in the opening three months of the year.
These figures are significantly higher than a year ago when an average of only 228,000 teu per quarter was delivered in the latter half of 2009.
Alphaliner now expects net fleet growth of 9.6% this year, after allowing for scrapping and delivery slippages, whereas Clarksons is forecasting boxship fleet growth of just 5.6 to 13.7m teu.
According to the London broker, the orderbook now stands at 34.5% of the total fleet, having touched 60% at one stage. The orderbook for post-panamaxes nevertheless remains very high, equivalent to 70% of the existing fleet.
Clarksons says in its latest container market report that the balance between supply and demand growth is set to turn in favour of the demand side this year.
?However, a great deal of uncertainty remains, and volumes will have to improve substantially before the vast supply over-hang from 2009 begins to diminish,? the company cautions.