Record high container order book of 7.54 million TEU signals significant change

Despite the collapse in freight rates, shipowners still have an appetite for new container ship orders and the order book has continued to grow. The record high order book of 7.54 million TEU will result in significant changes to the container fleet in the coming years.

During the last ten quarters, 8.61 million TEU has been contracted, matching the level contracted during the preceding 30 quarters. The order book has now increased for ten straight quarters, reaching a new record high in each of the last four quarters, and at 7.54 million TEU it now equals 28.9% of the existing fleet.

The large order book will result in significant fleet growth. Scheduled deliveries for 2024 and the remainder of 2023 are currently at 5.03 million TEU. We estimate that recycling will hit nearly 1 million TEU during that period and the fleet could therefore soon exceed 30 million TEU for the first time; up 16% compared to today.

Delivery of the ships will also increase the fuel types used. 57% of TEU capacity in the order book involves ships with some level of alternative fuels preparation compared to only 10% in the current fleet. The first ships using methanol will be delivered and the first ammonia-ready ships will also be launched Soon, five different fuels could be in use: low- and high-sulphur fuel oil, LNG, methanol, and ammonia. As the use of alternative fuels increases it will become increasingly difficult to establish a single relevant rate benchmark for the time charter and asset markets.

At the same time, the operators’ ownership share of the fleet will continue to grow. Ten years ago, the operators’ ownership share of the fleet capacity bottomed out at 50% but has since climbed to 61%. This share will increase further in the coming years as 65% of the order book capacity is controlled by operators. Many of the non-operating owners’ largest ships are fixed on long-term charter contracts and it is increasingly only smaller ships that operate in the short-term charter market. Combined with the increasing ownership share, operators’ ability to use the time charter market to quickly adjust fleet capacity is therefore decreasing.

Most importantly, the new ships will be more fuel efficient than most of the existing ships and the introduction of alternative fuels will help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.





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