According to a recent report by the Nikkei website, there has been a surge in new construction orders for container ships from all over the world recently.
According to the report, judging from the order volume in the first half of 2021, container ships have reached the second-highest level in the history of semi-annual orders. Rising freight rates have pushed up the income of shipping companies, and companies have invested in shipbuilding. On the other hand, between 2023 and 2024, when ships currently under construction are put on the market, there is a risk of a downturn in the market. In addition, considering that the construction price of container ships is also rising, there is still the possibility of fluctuations in the income environment of the shipping industry.
According to data released by Clarkson Research, a British research firm, the number of container ship construction orders in the first half of 2021 was 317, which has soared to the highest level since the first half of 2005. As the spread of the new crown epidemic is expected to lead to a downturn in freight, the number of container ship orders has declined, which will increase by 11 times in the first half of 2021 year-on-year.
The demand for container ships by the world’s large shipping companies is soaring. In June, Hapag-Lloyd of Germany ordered 6 container ships, HMM of South Korea ordered 12, and Evergreen also decided to order 20 container ships in March.
The reason behind the surge in orders for new-built container ships is the soaring freight rates of container ships. The freight data released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange shows that in late July, the freight for 20-foot containers from Shanghai to Europe was US$7,395, a year-on-year increase of 8.2 times. The 40-foot container sent from Shanghai to the east coast of the United States was US$10,067 each, breaking the US$10,000 mark for the first time since statistics were available in 2009.
At the beginning of this fiscal year, large domestic shipping companies such as Nippon Yusen predicted that this year’s container freight rates would begin to decline from June to July. But in fact, due to strong freight demand, as well as port scheduling and capacity issues, container transnational transportation capacity has stagnated and freight rates have skyrocketed. All shipping companies have substantially raised their performance expectations for the 2021 fiscal year (as of March 2022) and are expected to receive the highest revenue in history.
In addition, with the increase in shipbuilding orders, the price of container ships has also continued to rise. In July, Clarkson released a new container ship price index of 89.9 (100 in January 1997), a year-on-year increase of 12.7 percentage points, reaching a high level in about nine and a half years.
However, while making good income expectations, some people have also begun to be wary that there may be a surplus of container ships when the new ships currently ordered are put into use in two to three years. Nao Umemura, chief financial officer of Japanese shipping company Mitsui Merchant Marine, said: “Objectively speaking, I doubt whether future freight demand can keep up.” In addition, it is expected that the transportation demand caused by the growth of home consumption demand will also fall around 2023.