The world’s container fleet grew by 5.3 percent during 2012, adding 1.6 million TEUs (20-foot-equivalent units) to reach 32.9 million TEUs. This increase was smaller but less erratic than that the stock growth of more than 8 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2010, reports Drewry Maritime Research’s latest Container Census.
“Growth in 2012 was dented by the stubborn presence of more than 500,000 TEU of newbuild equipment awaiting collection from factories. As a result, the average monthly rate of new container pick-up was lower than in 2011,” said Andrew Foxcroft, editor of the Container Census.
Fleet growth topped 8 percent in 2011 and was more than 7 percent in 2010, when container demand went from ultra-strong to relatively weak in less than a year. In 2010, the uptake of new containers had rocketed after the collapse of 2009, although it subsequently weakened again from early in 2011 as peak-season demand failed to materialize as strongly as had been predicted earlier. This fluctuation had a dramatic impact on new dry freight container prices, which soared to a 20-year high during 2010-2011 before coming down again late in 2011.
Dry freight prices also rose sharply during the opening half of 2012, before falling back by the fourth quarter to much the same level as one year earlier. However, the peak of 2012 was not as high as had occurred earlier in 2010-2011, so there was less price variation for the year overall.
A key problem is that the existing newbuild stockpile has risen again in early 2013, to top one million TEUs by the second quarter and is already choking off demand. The annual price level is also forecast to fall further in 2013, possibly to $2,400 per CEU (capital equivalent unit—a cost measure per TEU), which would be its lowest point since 2008-2009.
The present outlook suggests that there may be still less price fluctuation during 2013, while container uptake—and fleet growth—is expected to stay relatively weak.