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2023 To Bring Wave of New Container Ships

A significant influx of new container ships is on the horizon, with deliveries expected to accelerate starting next month and continue surging until 2025, according to a report by Alphaliner. This unprecedented orderbook of new ships is causing concerns of overcapacity in the market. Stefan Verberckmoes, an analyst at Alphaliner, stated that the impact of this wave of newbuildings will become apparent from mid-March, coinciding with a period of shrinking demand.

Maritime Strategies International (MSI) estimates that deliveries in Q2 2023 will reach 717,900 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), marking a 62% increase compared to the current quarter. Deliveries are projected to rise to 764,800 TEUs in Q3 2023. As of February 1, the overall orderbook stood at 7.69 million TEUs, representing nearly 30% of the existing fleet capacity.

The report from Alphaliner focused on deliveries of new ships intended for mainline trades by the top 11 carriers, which is of particular importance to importers in the U.S. and Europe. The analysis revealed that 89 new mainline vessels are scheduled for delivery in the remainder of 2023, followed by 130 in 2024 and 96 in 2025, amounting to a total of 315 over the next three years. When considering newbuildings for non-mainline trades, such as smaller ships, intra-Asia ships, and feeder vessels, the total number of newbuildings on order for these 11 carriers is 499, according to Alphaliner data.

Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) has the highest number of mainline capacity deliveries planned through 2025, with 92 vessels in the pipeline, including 33 to be delivered this year. CMA CGM follows with 38 mainline vessel orders, primarily scheduled for delivery next year. Cosco (including OOCL) has the third-highest number, with 32 mainline vessel orders.

Alphaliner also categorized the newbuildings into three size categories: "Megamaxes" (23,000-24,000 TEUs) for the Asia-Europe trade, "Neopanamaxes" (13,000-15,000 TEUs) that can transit the Panama Canal, and other mainline vessels (7,000 TEUs and above). Neopanamaxes constitute 60% of the total mainline newbuildings, while Megamaxes account for 23%, and other mainline vessels make up 17%.

Alphaliner cautioned that a significant number of Megamax newbuildings are entering the Asia-Europe trade at a time when demand is weakening. Deliveries of Neopanamaxes and other mainliner vessels will be substantial throughout 2023-2025, particularly in 2024, which may lead to increased capacity pressures on trans-Pacific rates.

Industry experts anticipate that carriers will face challenging years ahead due to the extensive ordering of new ships. However, opinions differ regarding the severity of the situation and the rationality of carrier ordering behavior.


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