Idled ocean container capacity fell for the first time in six months as carriers re-activated larger vessels amid a seasonal increase in cargo volume, but the jobless figures likely will surge again later in the year.
As of April 13 the idle fleet stood at 486 ships of 1.31 million TEUs representing 10.4 percent of the global fleet. Two weeks ago, 485 vessels were idle, representing 1.42 million TEUs and 11.3 percent of the fleet, according to AXS-Alphaliner, the Paris-based container shipping consultant.
"The fall signals the start of the summer peak season and expectations of higher volumes in the coming months," Alphaliner said.
Several seasonal loops suspended a few months ago have been re-activated while larger ships are being introduced on other loops. This has led to a fall in the number of idled very large container ships from 23 to only 10 today.
The idle fleet likely will shrink over the coming month as several carriers, including K Line, Cosco, OOCL, Hanjin and MOL, are expected to redeploy laid up tonnage as cargo volumes pick up in key trade lanes.
A marginal increase in freight rates on the Asia-Europe and Asia-Middle East routes in early April also has prompted the return of some idled ships, according to Alphaliner.
But the idle fleet could ramp up again to over two million TEUs when the peak season ends in September/October if the global economy does not recover, Alphaliner forecasts.
"With new capacity expected to be added at a faster pace over the next three quarters, a surplus fleet oversupply of three million TEUs may appear at the end of the winter season if the economy remains sluggish."
MSC, the Geneva-based carrier, has idled just one percent of its fleet and only 2 percent of French carrier CMA CGM's fleet is jobless, according to Alphaliner figures. APL has idled 23 percent of its capacity, and 24 percent of Zim's fleet is jobless.