The number of idle container ships is at a 30-month low, with only 71 ships recorded as unemployed, according to a survey of the container fleet by Alphaliner last week.
The survey said the total unemployed capacity currently stands at 134,000 20-foot equivalent units of containers, or 0.9 percent of the overall cellular fleet, which represents the lowest idle capacity level recorded since the start of the financial crisis in September 2008.
The survey found only 26 carrier-controlled ships currently unemployed, with an idle capacity of 75,000 TEUs.
The entire usable cellular fleet under carriers' control is expected to be employed by the end of May, except for a few over-aged mothballed ships and some damaged units.
Two ships of more than 5,000 TEUs remain unemployed so far, but both (the 10,062-TEU Zim Djibouti and the 8,440-TEU ZIM San Diego) are slated to join the newly-launched Asia-Europe Express 2 service, a loop jointly operated by Zim, China Shipping and Evergreen.
A further 45 ships controlled by non-operating owners with a capacity totaling 59,000 TEUs are presently idle. These include a few charter market ships recently redelivered to owners and without immediate employment.
Alphaliner said the idle fleet numbers are now back to pre-crisis levels, with fairly balanced demand and supply conditions, at least for the time being. At the peak of the recession late in the year 2009, close to 400 ships controlled by non-operating owners and an additional 200 carrier-controlled ships were unemployed.