‘Year-to-date (YTD) another record has been set as more than 1 million TEU has already been delivered during the first four months of the year, an increase of nearly eighty per cent compared to the previous record,’ says Niels Rasmussen, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO in the organisation’s latest Shipping number of the week.

Rasmussen also says: ‘In 2023, 2.3 million TEU of container ship capacity was delivered, beating the former all-time high by 37 per cent.’

As ship recycling has so far only retired nineteen smaller ships, the fleet has expanded by nearly 1 million TEU, a 3.5 per cent increase compared to the beginning of the year. This adds to last year’s fleet growth of 8.2 per cent.

Also read: BIMCO: Demand shocks slash ship recycling

Order book at 21% of current fleet

‘Due to record deliveries the order book has declined. However, as 1.8 million TEU has been contracted during 2023 and 2024, it has only declined by 1 million TEU and now stands at 6.1 million TEU, 21 per cent of the current fleet size. As a result, the order book’s share of the fleet is more than twice the size than it was before the COVID pandemic and liner operators’ contracting spree began,’ says Rasmussen.

The order book contains 2 million TEU for delivery in 2024 and delivery volumes for the year is on target to exceed 3 million TEU, thirty per cent higher than last year’s record. In 2025, deliveries should end just below 2 million TEU, the third highest deliveries in one year only exceeded in 2023 and 2024.

Despite this, deliveries are still some way off the record when seen in relation to the size of the fleet. In 2024, BIMCO expects deliveries to reach eleven per cent of fleet capacity at the beginning of the year. That was most recently beaten in 2008 when deliveries made up fourteen per cent of the fleet.

Ship capacity delivered BIMCO
Supplied by BIMCO.

Also read: ‘Just 626 ships represent 36% of container ship fleet’s capacity’

This year, deliveries keep container trade moving

The record high ship deliveries were expected to create significant oversupply in the market, and while this did impact the market in 2023, it appears that deliveries this year instead contribute to keeping global container trade moving.

Due to the rerouting of ships via the Cape of Good Hope following attacks in the Red Sea by Houthis, about ten per cent more capacity is needed to manage global container trades. Capacity needed to manage any market growth should be added to those ten per cent.

‘When ships start increasing sailings via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, we will most likely see significant oversupply. Between 2019 and 2023, the fleet grew 21 per cent while container volumes only grew four per cent. Between 2023 and 2025, the fleet is expected to grow another fifteen per cent,’ says Rasmussen.

Also read: ‘Pandemic slashed 24.6M TEU from container market’