News ID: 80439 |
Publish Date: 14:50 - 02 October 2019

Carriers caught between higher costs and lower earnings

Boxships are coming out of service for scrubber retrofits, pushing up charter rates. But a shortage of available tonnage has done little to raise freight rates.

Charter rates rise for larger vessels as scrubber installations take ships out of service.

CONTAINER lines chartering in ships are finding their costs rising as the number of vessels being removed from the fleet for scrubber retrofits pushes up charter rates.

But at the same time, the reduction in the number of available vessels has done little to boost freight rates, according to analysis by Alphaliner.

Of the 51 containerships currently undergoing scrubber retrofits, 39 units are larger than 6,000 teu, accounting for 484,000 teu out of the total of 517,000 teu of capacity that are presently removed from the market, according to Alphaliner.

“However, 41 units of between 6,000 teu and 20,000 teu have already completed their retrofits since the beginning of this year and are now back in service, providing some relief for ships in this sector,” it said.

In smaller ship classes, classic panamax vessels of 4,000 teu-5,100 teu were also coming under pressure, according to the research.

Latest figures from Lloyd’s List Intelligence show that 501,321 teu of containership capacity is idle, representing 2.3% of total capacity.

The figures include 114,000 teu of that capacity comes from larger ships of over 10,000 teu that have been removed from service for scrubber installations.

“While availability of 6,000+ teu ships remains tight, charter rates could once again weaken in the coming months,” Alphaliner said. “In addition to faltering tonnage demand, this is due to the fact that vessels are starting to return to the market after their scrubber installation.”

But the lack of available vessels had done nothing to raise freight rates.

“The two markets’ sharply contrasting fortunes could put a lid on further charter rate gains, now that the container freight market enters its traditional winter slack season,” Alphaliner said.

“Falling freight rates have forced carriers to withdraw additional sailings in the months of October and November, and prompted shipping lines to rationalise services on several routes. These capacity management initiatives could lead to a reduced demand for containerships in the fourth quarter.”

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