Alphaliner says that despite a year-long decline in prime-line spot freight rates on major routes from China, which fell from their peak in early 2022 to levels close to pre-COVID-19 pandemic Today, the past year turned out to be particularly lucrative for regular container shipping: Solid contract rates and a strong transatlantic market helped carriers remain profitable. This indicated that four container shipping lines grew more than the others over the past year.
Although many shippers made an effort to expand their containerized capacity to take full advantage of the unusually strong market. In Alphaliner’s year-on-year comparison, of the top 12 container shipping lines, they show significant discrepancies between “winners” and “losers”.
Alphaliner assures that after having increased the capacity of its fleet by 411,000 teu slots (+10.7%) in 2021, MSC was once again the most expansive among the large shipping companies last year, adding another 321,500 teu (+7.5 %). However, MSC received 83,600 TEU capacity from the new vessels. MSC’s impressive growth was driven primarily by the carrier’s continued acquisition of secondhand tonnage, enabling it to become the world’s largest containership on January 5, 2022, when it overtook Maersk.
Almost a year later, MSC’s fleet capacity is already some 379,000 TEU greater than that of its Danish partner 2M. Maersk lost 61,700 TEU of capacity during 2022, as the Danish company had to redeliver a significant amount of chartered tonnage. These ships were sold second-hand or delivered to rival carriers who were prepared to pay higher charter rates or accept longer charter periods, reports maritime analyst, Alphaliner.
For its part, ZIM has been particularly active in the chartering market since ending its cooperation with 2M partners on the Asia – Med and Asia – WCNA routes, which meant that the line needed some additional tonnage to maintain a strong presence on these routes.
In percentage terms, the Israel-based carrier was the fastest growing line among the top 12, adding almost 120,000 teu (+29%) to its fleet. Most of this additional capacity was chartered, including three new 11,900 TEU vessels on long-term contracts.
He also shares that Evergreen has received no less than twenty new ships, including seven megamax ships for the Asia-Europe routes. The 217,500 TEU of capacity that Evergreen received directly from the shipyards explains why the Taiwanese line was, at least in percentage terms, the second biggest gainer of 2022 at +12.5%.
In absolute numbers, CMA CGM recorded the second largest fleet gain by increasing capacity by more than 225,000 TEU. Interestingly, MSC, Evergreen and CMA CGM had already been the most expansionary lines in 2021.
COSCO Group (including OOCL) is an interesting case in point as the Chinese carrier’s fleet shrank for the second year in a row. After having reduced capacity by 3.2% in 2021, the Chinese group experienced another 2.1% decline in operated capacity last year. However, at 885,000 teu, COSCO has the second largest ship order book in the industry, reports Alphaliner.
Apart from COSCO and Maersk, ONE (-0.8%) and HMM (-0.4%) also reduced their fleets, albeit only marginally.
Alphaliner reports that Hapag-Lloyd’s 1.8% growth remained below average, while Wan Hai grew in line with the market at 4.1%. Yang Ming’s fleet grew 6.8% as the carrier took delivery of five new 11,860 TEU ships.
The numbers of individual operators are compared to a global cellular fleet that registered a growth of 4.1% last year and today stands at 26.40 Mteu.