U.S. demand for containerized imports is picking up and underpins hopes that it will soak up excess vessel capacity as the year progresses, Bimco said in its Shipping Market Overview & Outlook for February.
“There is room for some optimism in the container ship business, as witnessed by the number of loaded containers going into the ports on the US West Coast,” the report said. Demand increased by 1.7 percent during 2012, “more than making up for the fall in demand in 2011.”
Container freight rates are likely to stabilize. “If history is anything to judge by, the freight rate lifts that have been experienced on the trans-Pacific and Far East to Europe trades in recent weeks may bring about rather decent average full-year rates,” said Bimco Chief Shipping Analyst Peter Sand. He said although the hefty increases in freight rates experienced at the beginning of 2010 and again in 2012 set the stage for subsequent rate declines, rates remained within healthy distance of break-even levels. He said 2013 has started off along the positive lines of 2010 and 2012.
Sluggish global demand and the 6 to 8 percent growth in new vessel capacity are leading to more scrapping. The amount of container tonnage sold for recycling in January was the third highest after the two peak months in mid-2009. “This bodes well for the industry and BIMCO remains upbeat on the likelihood for another strong year in recycling on top of an extraordinary 2012.”
The Copenhagen-based association of shipowners, operators, managers, brokers and agents said it expects new ship deliveries to decline in 2013 as the year progresses to 42 ultra-large container vessels, compared to 51 in 2012. Still, the number delivered this year will be enough to add four full vessel strings of 10 ships to the Asia-Europe trade, where they are most likely to be deployed.