Slow steaming absorbs excess capacity
Extra-slow-steaming initiatives by liner carriers have employed roughly 300,000 TEUs of global fleet capacity that would ordinarily be idled, according to a report Monday from maritime news service Alphaliner.
'These ESS initiatives keep in activity 47 vessels of between 3,000 and 13,000 TEUs, which otherwise would have been idle,' Alphaliner said. 'The capacity kept active through ESS corresponds to 2.3 percent of the cellular fleet.'
To put that 2.3 percent in context, nearly 12 percent of the global containership fleet is idle due to overcapacity.
The move to slow-steam (and extra-slow-steam) ships has been made primarily to cut down on fuel consumption, with bunker rates now well above $500 per ton. Alphaliner said 5 percent to 7 percent of vessel costs can be saved by slowing ships down, including the extra costs of deploying extra ships to keep weekly port schedules. But the initiatives have the added effect of employing capacity that would ordinarily be laid up.
The report said nearly two-thirds of Asia/Europe loops are slow steaming, while 20 percent of transpacific and 25 percent of transpacific all-water services are doing likewise. Less than 10 percent of transatlantic loops are slow steaming.
For its calculations, Alphaliner considers vessels operating at an average speed of 21 knots or less to be slow steaming, and 18 knots or less to be 'extra-slow steaming.' 'Super-slow steaming' would entail speeds of 15 knots of less.
'There is still additional room for ESS to be applied as more services are expected to switch to lower sailing speeds of around 18 knots, down from their current speeds of 20-22 knots, themselves slowed down from the usual commercial speeds of around 24 knots which characterized line haul services utilizing large container vessels when the (fuel) was still at an affordable price,' Alphaliner said. 'For example, if the remaining Far East/Europe services were switched to ESS mode, a further 105,000 TEUs would be required to maintain the existing rotations.'