The active container ship fleet added 2.4 million 20-foot equivalent units since the beginning of the year, putting downward pressure on ocean freight rates, according to a leading industry analyst.
The 19 percent increase, driven by new vessel deliveries and re-activation of idled tonnage, has boosted the active global fleet to 13.8 million TEUs, according to Alphaliner, the Paris-based analyst.
"The rapid increase in capacity deployed has finally started to have an impact on container freight levels, with average rates out of China sliding by 6 percent in the last two months," Alphaliner said.
By The Numbers: Container Rate Benchmark.
Carriers are still adding capacity, with several new services scheduled for September, including two on the trans-Pacific and two across the Atlantic.
The extra capacity is being introduced as a weaker-than-expected peak season has led to declining utilization levels, according to Alphaliner.
Further rate declines are anticipated through the end of the year, with the Far East-Europe forward market swap rates projected to fall a further 8 percent by early 2011.
All major ocean carriers have added new capacity this year, except Japan's NYK, which has cut its active capacity by 4 percent during the past eight months.
MSC has added most capacity in absolute terms with its fleet swelling by 282,000 TEUs, or 19 percent, since the beginning of the year. The Geneva-based carrier is expected to receive as many as 13 new 14,000-TEU ships this year, of which eight have already been delivered, according to Alphaliner.
MSC, the world's second largest carrier, has also been very active in the ship charter market, taking advantage of low rate levels during the early part of the year.
Most recently, MSC chartered four 4,170-TEU ships from Danish carrier Maersk for a year at a reported daily rate of $24,000. The vessels, which have just left lay-up in a Scottish loch, are expected to be deployed on MSC's Asia-South Africa service.
Chile's CSAV has increased capacity most in percentage terms, adding 203,000 TEUs, or 61 percent of its capacity, since the beginning of the year.
Hapag-Lloyd's capacity has risen 32 percent since January, APL 26 percent, China Shipping Container Line 17 percent, Evergreen 15 percent and CMA-CGM 14 percent.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.