Slow steaming helps, deliveries hurt
Idled containership capacity has dropped 142,000 TEUs in the past month thanks to slow-steaming initiatives by ocean carriers, according to the maritime news service Alphaliner.
Those measures have dropped the percentage of the global container fleet idled to 10.4 percent (it hovered near 12 percent at the turn of the year).
However, Alphaliner said new ship deliveries are threatening to reverse some of the positive momentum in soaking up excess capacity made by slow-steaming measures. Roughly 133,000 TEUs of capacity were delivered in January, the highest amount since 2008.
'The idle fleet still remains high at 10.4 percent of the total cellular fleet with a significant number of fresh deliveries expected in 2010 that could add to the overall capacity surplus,” Alphaliner said in its weekly newsletter. “The level of deliveries this year is expected to be higher than the growth seen in 2009.'
What slow steaming is primarily accomplishing is the employment of the world's largest containerships. Virtually no capacity is currently idled on ships larger than 7,500 TEUs, while close to 500 ships between smaller than 5,000 TEUs are parked.
Alphaliner suggests the only way the capacity surplus won't continue to plague the industry in 2010 is if scrapping of older vessels significantly intensifies, demand recovers strongly and vessel deliveries planned for this year are canceled or delayed.
Extra-slow steaming, meanwhile, has become so pervasive that 19 of the 23 loops operating between Asia and Europe have slowed down, with the average duration stretching from eight weeks to nearly 10 weeks. According to Alphaliner only one service each from CMA CGM/China Shipping, China Shipping/Evergreen, the Grand Alliance and the CKYH Alliance have refrained from extra slow steaming, and 'while these four remaining loops are not on ESS, they are believed to be also sailing at reduced service speeds.'
Jean-Louis Cambon, head of the ocean management committee at Michelin recently addressed the issue of slow steaming and how it could affect shippers. American Shipper wrote about slow steaming in its January issue.