Archives for posts with tag: capacity growth

One of the great stories of the Bible’s New Testament centres on the feeding of a multitude of 5,000 with just five loaves and two small fish. Shipping also has a notable 5,000 to feed in the form of the containership fleet. In this case, the feat has not only been continually finding enough cargo for the fleet to carry but also generating more capacity across a similar number of ships as time has gone by.

For the full version of this article, please go to Shipping Intelligence Network.

 

In many instances the shipping industry is all about growth, with trade volumes expanding along with the world economy and fleet capacity growing too. However, that’s not exclusively the case. Today, trade volumes in some commodities are stalling, and there are some parts of the fleet that are on the wane. What might a look at some of those shrinking sectors tell us?

Frozen Out?

There are a number of reasons that can drive fleets into decline. The first is technological substitution by another sector. The reefer fleet is a good example. Total reefer fleet capacity has been in decline since the mid-1990s as containerized transportation has encroached onto the territory once held by conventional reefers. In 2012 reefer capacity in cubic feet declined by 12%, and last year by 0.6%.

Upsized?

Upsizing is another driver that can cause capacity in certain sectors to decline. As larger vessels offer greater real (or perceived) economies of scale, smaller vessel sectors can get left behind. This has been most noticeable in the containership sector. The sub-1,000 TEU boxship sector, once home to the classic ‘feeders’, has been in decline in TEU capacity terms since 2009, with growth in the boxship sector as a whole focussed on much larger vessels.

All Change?

Another driver of decline in a fleet segment can be a specific development in infrastructure. The Panamax containership fleet is an example of this. Although there are 838 Panamaxes still on the water, Panamax fleet capacity, which once accounted for more than 30% of the containership fleet, has been in decline since 2013, and there are no units on order. The planned expansion of the Panama Canal has made the Panamaxes yesterday’s vessels, and when the new locks eventually open (currently slated for later this year) the prospects for decline look even more certain. 11 Panamaxes have been sold for recycling already in 2016.

Cycling Through?

Market cycles can also explain shrinking fleets, although in this case the trends may not necessarily be lasting. In the Ro-Ro sector, with markets softer, total lane metre capacity was in decline for most of 2010-14. When markets are weak there is often limited vessel replacement with earnings insufficient to tempt owners at prevailing newbuild prices. Eventually the cycle turns, and earnings improve, incentivising owners to order new tonnage leading to fleet growth once again.

What Goes Down, Must Go Up?

Happily, however, each of these drivers also explain fleet expansion, generally with other sectors benefiting from the same trends in technology, upsizing or infrastructure. World fleet growth has slowed but remains positive, although even here it’s worth noting the patterns; growth has been more focussed on tonnage than ship numbers. Nevertheless, the global fleet is a broad church, and not everything is growing all of the time. The interesting news, however, is that if there’s growth overall, and one part is in decline, then another part must be growing even more quickly! Have a nice day.

SIW

Successful investors are always looking to get on the right side of an uneven bet, and the shipping market has had an uneven look to it so far in 2015. There has been some improvement in earnings, and the Clarksea Index has risen to around 30% above its 2014 average. However, the upside has not been spread equally across the sectors at all, and the same could be said of trends in capacity growth.

Uneven Territory

Looking at the key markets, the LPG sector has continued to be a star performer, and tankers have had a great run in the year to date too. Containerships have seen charter earnings increase from historical lows, but poor old bulkers continue to see rock bottom levels. It’s an uneven picture to say the least. However, one factor that appears to be more even is the volume of capacity entering the fleet.

Flattening Out

Shipyard output looks fairly steady, with the 6-month moving average of deliveries averaging around 7-8m dwt per month for about a year and half now. As a result fleet growth has slowed from the c.9% level seen in 2010-11, and today the projection is for a fairly steady rate of growth in total cargo fleet capacity, with expected expansion of 3.5% this year and 4.1% in 2016. Is this good news? A high level view may suggest that, with a fair wind on the demand side, more moderate supply side growth at least should not make the underlying market surplus any worse. However, looking in more detail it is clear that the rate of capacity growth is highly uneven across sectors too.

Speeding Up

Supply growth in the key cargo vessel sectors can be split into three. In the fast lane we have those sectors where fleet growth is expected to speed up in 2016. LPG carrier capacity growth already looks rapid (VLGC capacity is projected to grow by 18% this year) and will accelerate again next year. Crude tanker fleet growth will also speed up (VLCC capacity is projected to expand by 6% in 2015). What sort of ‘landing’ might that bring for these markets? Capesize bulker fleet growth will ramp up to 5% in 2016 (as if this sector needed any more pressure), and after a few years of shrinkage the 1-3,000 TEU boxship sector will at last see some (much needed) expansion (1%).

Slowing Down

Supply growth in other sectors looks set to remain relatively steady in 2016 compared to 2015, but there are also a number of sectors where it is projected to slow in 2016. LNG carrier and Handy bulker supply growth will start to recede. Notably, expansion in the large (8,000+ TEU) boxship sector will begin to slow (20% in 2015 to 13% in 2016) whilst the medium-sized boxship fleet will staunchly continue to decline (by 2% in 2016).

So, market earnings are uneven today and despite the big picture suggesting that capacity growth will remain moderately steady across 2015 and 2016, delving into the detail suggests that supply-side impetus will be uneven from one sector to another. Some sectors might be start to feel fresh pressures whilst others might breathe a sigh of relief. Those aiming to get on the right side of the bet should look closely. Have a nice day.

SIW1173