Ocean Carriers Move to Hasten Ship Deliveries

Ocean Carriers Move to Hasten Ship Deliveries

Ocean carriers that were trying to delay deliveries of ships a year ago are now pushing shipyards to bring forward construction dates as confidence returns to container shipping, according to a leading analyst.

Order cancellations, deferrals, idling and scrapping excess tonnage, which were still key concerns for carriers as recently as the first quarter of this year, have now given way to renewed optimism, Alphaliner, the Paris-based consultant says.

"In stark contrast to last year's trend to postpone the deliveries of new buildings, in some cases until 2014, some owners are currently seeking earlier delivery dates for 2012."

By The Numbers: Container Rate Benchmark.

The record profits posted by leading carriers, including Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have encouraged some owners who are banking on an improved operating environment and attractive new building prices, coupled with rising second-hand values, to return to shipyards for new orders.

"The container sector … has been the driving force behind enquiries and this can be attributed in no small part to optimism in the markets generated by the strong earnings announcements," according to London broker Clarkson.

Unlike previous post-recession rebounds, when charter ship-owners were prominent in placing orders, their share of new contracts is expected to fall significantly as a large majority are facing difficulties in raising financing, Alphaliner notes.

Instead, ocean carriers are expected to take the lead in new vessel orders over the coming months.

Shipyards have taken orders for 44 container ships so far this year compared with just 15 during the whole of 2009, according to Clarkson.

But the current "boom," inflated by Neptune Orient Line's recent $1.2 billion order for 10 ships of 8,400 20-foot equivalent units capacity and two 10,700 TEU vessels, marks a modest recovery compared with the 213 orders placed in 2008 and the 546 contracts signed in 2007.

The boom was deflated this week with the news that Taiwan's Evergreen Marine and South Korean shipyard STX Offshore and Shipbuilding called off negotiations over an order for a dozen 8,000 TEU ships.

-- Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.