Shipping research group Clarksons is forecasting worldwide container ship capacity will grow only 7 percent this year and 9 percent next year, a relatively low expansion despite large outstanding orders for new vessels.
Trevor Rowe, a director at Clarksons Research Services, said slow deliveries from shipyards and a strong scrapping effort by carriers will limit the impact of an order book that still stands at more than 20 percent of the existing container ship fleet.
"It's a substantial book, but not as substantial as it was because the container shipping industry did quite a good job of managing its fleet," Rowe told the annual Global Liner Shipping Conference organized by Containerisation International.
"There will not be the double-digit growth many people had assumed when they look at the order delivery schedule," said Rowe.
The capacity forecast is lower than some other industry projections, although still within range of the 8.7 percent industry-wide capacity expansion recently forecast by Alphaliner. It comes even though Rowe said Clarksons measures vessels totaling some 1.4 million 20-foot equivalent units of capacity due for delivery in 2011 and again in 2012.
But Rowe said shipyard deliveries have been slower than scheduled since carriers placed record orders totaling some 3.5 million TEUs in 2007. The global container fleet grew 6 percent in 2009 and 10 percent in 2010, he said, but it could have expanded 13 to 14 percent last year if 45 percent of the ordered capacity had not been canceled or delayed.
At the same time, he said, carriers scrapped vessels totaling some 370,000 TEUs, by far a record and making the once insignificant practice an important factor in fleet capacity.
Container ship operators and ship owners have some 4 million TEUs of capacity on order, Rowe said, and 1.4 million TEUs are scheduled to be delivered this year and again in 2012. But Clarksons estimates operators will take only 1.04 million TEUs this year and 1.35 million next year.