Ocean carriers have absorbed nearly 100 container ships with a combined capacity of 554,000 20-foot equivalent units by introducing extra slow steaming on key liner trade routes, according to a new report.
Extra slow steaming absorbed only five ships of 46,000 TEUs a year ago, but the additional capacity employed will reach 580,000 TEUs by the beginning of July based on carriers’ plans to slow down existing service rotations and cut speeds on new services.
“It could rise further by the end of the year as slower sailing speeds take hold across all line-haul trades,” according to Alphaliner, the Paris-based container shipping consultancy.
The capacity absorbed by extra slow steaming represents 4.1 percent of the total cellular container fleet and has contributed significantly to redress the supply-demand imbalance the grew through 2009.
Slower sailing speeds have become the norm on the Asia-Europe and trans-Pacific routes, covering 78 percent and 53 percent respectively of all strings, according to Alphaliner.
Ships on these routes are sailing at between 17 and 19 knots, one step down from “normal” slow steaming of between 20 knots and 22 knots.
“Unlike the short-lived experiments made by carriers last year to route east-bound Europe-Asia services via the Cape of Good Hope, thus by-passing the Suez Canal to save on canal fees, the impact of slow steaming is expected to be more long lasting,”Alphaliner said.
Recent reductions in oil prices could affect some carriers’ plans to switch more services to extra slow steaming.
But as long as fuel oil prices remain above $400 per tonne, services currently operating at extra slow steam will continue to do so.
--Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.