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Slow down in biggest ship lay-up

Slow down in biggest ship lay-up
Container lines are keeping most of their very big ships in service, despite a collapse in cargo volumes this year and calls for more radical action to halt spiralling losses.

Container lines are keeping most of their very big ships in service, despite a collapse in cargo volumes this year and calls for more radical action to halt spiralling losses.

Container lines are keeping most of their very big ships in service, despite a collapse in cargo volumes this year and calls for more radical action to halt spiralling losses.

Only seven vessels with nominal capacity of 7,000 teu or more are inactive, out of the global total of around 245.

Figures compiled by Lloyd"s MIU late this week show that 26 ships with capacity of at least 6,000 teu had not moved in the previous 19 days. But some large post-panamaxes that were inactive earlier in the year now appear to be back in service.

China Shipping"s 9,672 teu Xin Beijing is the biggest containership currently unemployed, followed by Cosco Container Lines" 9,469 teu Cosco Ningbo. China Shipping"s 8,530 teu Xin Ya Zhou and NYK Line"s 8,400 teu NYK Olympus have also been withdrawn from service. Another notable casualty of the downturn is Maersk Line"s 6,600 teu Sovereign Maersk, which is currently at anchor.

But with post-panamax ships accounting for only a small proportion of the total number of 406 vessels identified in LMIU"s latest Inactive Vessel Report as idle, the industry has been censured for not being bold enough in removing surplus capacity.

Drewry Shipping Consultants has been particularly outspoken in its criticism after calculating that only 48 ships that were operating in the main east-west trades had been put into lay-up by the end of February. The rest have been cascaded into other services, rather than mothballed.

APL has anchored the greatest number ships, with Drewry estimating that the Singapore line had laid up a dozen that were previously deployed in east-west services. Both Maersk Line and Cosco have withdrawn nine from employment, while Zim has idled six, but most other lines have only put one or two into lay-up.

Drewry has compared this half-hearted response to the deepest collapse the industry has ever faced to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, with lines ?refusing to acknowledge the necessity of abandoning ship ? or ships ? before the crisis becomes a disaster?.

Some carriers still seem more focused on market share, says Neil Dekker, editor of Drewry"s Capacity Management report. ?It"s the same old story, about being the biggest,? he said.

Although around 10% of the global containership fleet is idle, many of the anchored vessels are relatively small, with capacity of less than 2,000 teu. Moreover, the removal of tonnage has failed to arrest the decline in freight rates.

To date, lines mostly have been altering capacity through service suspensions, slow steaming, service deviations and the off-hiring of chartered tonnage, as well as lay-ups.

?While some of these strategies are more effective than others, few, if any, carriers have yet adopted the full suite of measures consistently and there is still a reluctance on a collective front to tackle the dire situation head-on,? says Drewry which expects some major operators to fail this year.

The fleet will continue to grow as a new generation of super-sized boxships enters service, with 44 vessels of 8,000 teu or more scheduled for delivery this year, and many more to come between 2010 and 2012. A fair number will be in excess of 12,000 teu.

One development that is alarming observers is the return of large boxships that had been withdrawn over the slack Chinese new year period.

LMIU has spotted a number of ships that were inactive earlier in the year, but which are now trading again, including the 10,000 teu Cosco Pacific and 9,469 teu Cosco Yantian.

www.TurkishMaritime.com.tr

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