Rapid upsizing on the Far East-Europe trade has shaped the boxship deployment landscape in recent years, and with around half of the current orderbook accounted for by the largest vessel sizes, it looks set to continue in the near future at least. So, how has deployment of increasingly large containerships changed on the Far East-Europe trade in recent years?

Big Trade, Big Ships
Throughout the modern era of container shipping, there has been continued and significant upsizing of the boxship fleet. Since the end of 1997, the average capacity of a boxship in the global fleet has increased from 1,622 TEU to reach 4,653 TEU by the start of December 2017, with the largest examples currently on order weighing in at 22,000 TEU. The Far East-Europe trade, one of the key trade lanes in container shipping, is where the majority of new and larger capacity is initially deployed. As the fleet has upsized, the Far East-Europe trade has seen dramatic changes in deployment trends.

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Repeating Cycles
Dating back to the early 2000s, deployment of 8#11,999 TEU boxships on the Far East-Europe trade peaked in early 2013, accounting for nearly half of capacity deployed on the trade at that time, before declining to 11% of deployed capacity by December 2017. Meanwhile, rapid growth in the deployment of vessels sized 12-14,999 TEU was seen on the Far East-Europe trade from start 2011 to mid-2014 before also peaking, at just over 50% of deployed capacity.

Since the start of 2017, the proportion of capacity deployed on the Far East-Europe trade accounted for by containerships of 12-14,999 TEU has begun to fall, and stood at 45% at start December 2017. Meanwhile, the proportion of Far East-Europe capacity accounted for by the new generation of large vessels sized over 15,000 TEU has been expanding rapidly, from around 5% in January 2013, to over 40% by start December 2017.

Untapped Potential?
Looking ahead, there is debate surrounding the scope for further upsizing on the Far East#Europe trade. Against a backdrop of 1.4m TEU of containership capacity on order in the 15,000+ TEU sector, there are a number of factors which might support this potential upsizing. Firstly, there remain around fifty 8#11,999 TEU vessels yet to be cascaded off the Far East-Europe trade. Secondly, whilst Far East-Europe services to Northern Europe have seen upsizing to a greater extent than dedicated Far East-Mediterranean services, 40% of this capacity remains accounted for by vessels of under 15,000 TEU. Finally, a limited number of operators have deployed vessels of 15,000+ TEU on dedicated Mediterranean services, although this is so far limited to only a handful of ships.

Keep On Climbing
So, there is no doubt that significant upsizing has been a key feature of containership deployment on the Far East-Europe trade up until now. However, even though the potential for further deployment of the largest vessel sizes on the trade appears to exist, only time will tell to what extent this will actually come into fruition.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News.