According to Alphaliner, non-owner-operated (NOO) fleets in the small and midsize sizes continue to shrink as the exodus of ships to transatlantic operators appears far from over.
Since November 1, 2022, when Alphaliner published its latest NOO fleet review, tonnage providers had lost another 71 ships to end users. This refers to tonnage in the size range of 700 to 9,000 teu for a total capacity of 245,000 teu.
The main buyers were, as expected, MSC with 20 ships and CMA CGM with seven units. Meanwhile, interests believed to be linked to Russian liner operators, or at least backed by Russia, accounted for a dozen vessel acquisitions, Alphaliner says.
He also mentions that, while still significant, the rate of decline in the NOO fleet has clearly slowed in the last seven months, compared to the 2020-2022 hemorrhage.
Between August 2020 and March 2022, the NOO fleet lost an incredible 500 ships for 1.6 Mteu and another 120 ships for 430,000 TEU between March and November 2022.
Alphaliner says that, in total, the NOO fleet has lost around 675 vessels to end users in just under three years. That these represented a total capacity of just over 2 Mteu.
They point out that the vast majority of NOO tonnage sold was between 700 and 9,000 TEU. Vessels of 1,500 – 1,900 teu, classic panamax (4,000 – 5,300 teu) and units of 2,000 – 2,600 teu were the most coveted ships with, respectively, 125, 102 and 93 vessels sold to end users.
MSC, when buying 306 boats, and CMA CGM, 104 boats representing little more than 60% of the total of second-hand transactions.
Alphaliner claims that of the 71 vessels lost to end users since November, tonnage suppliers have only purchased 32 vessels for 94,000 TEUs during this period. Indicating that this number should be taken with caution as it includes some ships that changed hands from one NOO to another.
The article states that, referring to the ships that NOOs purchased from end users, the count drops to just 14 ships of 45,500 TEUs. In addition, NOO ordered a dozen new-build vessels with a total capacity of 54,000 teu, a very modest figure.
In total, the newbuild orders placed by NOO in the sizes 700 to 9,000 teu since August 2020 add up to just over 1 Mteu or around 280 ships, leaving a shortfall of 1 Mteu to make up for the loss of tonnage for the end users.
Insufficient replacement of NOO tonnage is particularly visible in the sizes 2,000 – 2,600 teu and ‘classic panamax’ where the net loss is respectively 78 and 93 ships, says Alphaliner.
However, Alphaliner points out that classic panamaxes are an endangered breed and will be increasingly replaced by new generations of compact and fuel-efficient vessels from 6,000 to 7,500 TEU, which have been ordered en masse by both liner operators and by NOO.
As for the 5,300 – 7,500 TEU size segment, it is actually the only one in which the replacement fleet exceeds the sold fleet, due to the high level of orders for compact 7,000-7,500 TEU vessels placed in the last thirty months.
However, the future of the sector of less than 1,000 teu continues to raise questions, since not a single new-build vessel has been ordered for the NOOs.
While carbon regulations tend to favor larger tonnage deployed in optimized rotations, the current high demand for small vessels highlights continued carrier interest in these types of vessels.
It therefore remains to be seen how regular shipping companies and feeder operators will organize their short sea services when these vessels reach the end of their commercial life, Alphaliner concludes.