Navigating order book out of æslump zoneÆ
Cancellations and delays in orders for containerships as well as scrapping and slow steaming should ease the effect of the massive containership order book, said Paul Dowell, director of research and consultancy at Howe Robinson Shipbrokers.
About 1.48 million TEUs of containership capacity was scheduled for delivery in 2010, about an 11 percent increase in the world fleet, Dowell said in a presentation at Marine Money’s annual conference in New York. Delivery delays, cancellations and scrapping would lower that to 750,799 TEUs, or a 5.6 percent increase. Fold in the effect of slow steaming, he said, and another 300,000 TEUs in capacity will be absorbed, leading to an effective increase in capacity of just 3.4 percent.
With his firm predicting a 9.3 percent increase in trade, that would allow the market to see utilization of the containership fleet to increase from 78 percent in 2009 to 84 percent in 2010.
That would take the market out of what he calls the “slump zone” and into the “balanced zone” of normalized pricing.
Doing similar math, Dowell predicts utilization will steadily grow to 94 percent by 2015.
While Dowell forecast growth of 7.6 percent next year, economist Francois Trahan, a partner at Wolf Trahan, offered a downbeat assessment of the economic outlook for 2011.
He said his view was much gloomier than it was a year ago. 'For those of you who were here last year, a lot of these are the same slides. You just flip them over, that is how the world looks like today,' he joked.
'What has changed is the economic outlook. We have seen an inflection point in the leading indicators of the economy. Going forward we are going to ratchet down our growth expectations, and if you fast forward to the end of the year the debate is not going to be how much growth we get in 2011, the debate is going to be whether it is a slowdown or a recession,' he predicted.
The container shipping industry received increased attention at the event, which is attended by shipping executives and investment bankers, attorneys, brokers, and others who help them finance their fleets.
Loli Wu, a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that was 'for good reason,' as he introduced a discussion on the container sector. 'I suspect what you are going to hear today is a fairly uniformly positive on the container box sector, the container shipping sector, and container shipping lessors.
'The container liners and containership sector was probably declared the most risky sector of all shipping sectors last year with the concern of bankruptcy and significant restructuring for several of the liner companies,' he added. 'It seems that most of the major operators or all are likely to come out of this unscathed after some restructuring and recapitalization and are really reaping the rewards of surprisingly tight shipping box supply ' It's been a really fabulous run for the past six months.'
Wu highlighted the performance of container leasing companies that he said have been 'significantly outperforming the S&P 500 over the last year, and also the global liner companies.' Container leasing companies have seen utilization climb into the mid to high 90 percent range because of a shortage of containers, he said.
That shortage of containers has helped drive increased container freight rates this year, he said.
Jakob Tolstrup-M'ller, chief executive officer of The Containership Company, a start-up that began container service between China and Los Angeles earlier this year, agreed the industry has benefited from the cancellation of new ship orders, delays, and scrapping.
He said his company's ships have been full, and it's looking at adding a second transpacific string on the same Taicang/Long Beach route to increase frequency. The company has put plans on starting a service between Asia and Europe on hold. ' Chris Dupin