The containership orderbook has diminished by 30% in capacity terms since the start of 2016. Ordering during this period has remained very limited, with capacity contracted in 2016 at 0.29m TEU, representing the lowest level since 2009, and contracting in the first half of 2017 totalling less than 40,000 TEU. Despite this, however, there are several important aspects of the containership orderbook to consider.
The first of these concerns the change in the overall size of the orderbook, with the volume of capacity on order shrinking considerably over recent years. At the start of July 2017, the orderbook stood at 396 units of 2.78m TEU, a marked drop from 515 units of 3.97m TEU at the start of 2016. While the volume of capacity on order is still not insignificant, as a percentage of fleet capacity, it is the lowest it has been on record, standing at 14% at the start of July. As a result, boxship fleet growth in the next few years is expected to be relatively moderate, and significantly lower than 8.1% in 2015. In full year 2017, the containership fleet is projected to expand by 3.0% y-o-y in TEU terms, and by 3.7% y-o-y in 2018.
Checking The Schedule
The second interesting aspect is the shape of the orderbook schedule, which is a result of the pattern of ordering, as well as delays to deliveries to owners throughout challenging market conditions. With the vast majority of boxship capacity currently on order scheduled for delivery either in the remainder of this year or next year, the containership orderbook looks very thin after 2018 (see inset graph). Basis start July, just 22 boxships of over 12,000 TEU (including ‘mega boxships’) are scheduled for delivery from 2019 onwards (out of a total 108 vessels in this size range currently on order). In reality, some vessels currently expected to be delivered in 2017-18 may slip into 2019-20. Moreover, new orders for containerships of very large capacity could yet still emerge for delivery in that period, although appetite for boxship ordering in general currently remains very subdued.
Thirdly, the orderbook tells a very different story across the boxship sectors, remaining heavily weighted towards the larger sizes (see graph). Ships of 15,000+ TEU account for c.40% of capacity on order, and represent the equivalent of 73% of 15,000+ TEU fleet capacity. Meanwhile, sub-3,000 TEU there are currently 213 ships of 0.39m TEU on order, equivalent to 10% of fleet capacity in this size range, and expectations of limited deliveries mean that the sub-3,000 TEU fleet is expected to shrink in the short-term. Moreover, the orderbook in the 3-7,999 TEU size range is extremely limited, just 2% of fleet capacity.
So, the boxship orderbook has dwindled significantly, and against the current backdrop of a diminished appetite for contracting, it looks likely that it will continue to shrink. The shape and size of the orderbook does vary significantly across different vessel sizes but overall the schedule looks pretty thin after 2018. Peering through the orderbook ‘looking glass’, clearly there’s still a lot to see.