Despite a massive scrapping spree of classic Panamax containerships, the sector remains under pressure as up to one hundred further Panamaxes will need to be scrapped before the segment can regain its footing again, according to Alphaliner.
A total of 130 Panamax units of 4,000 – 5,100 TEU were removed from the fleet since 2009, including 44 units scrapped in the last four months alone. The Panamax fleet currently counts 563 ships, against 643 units two years ago.
In late 2016, two 4,250 TEU Panamax ships, the 2009-built India Rickmers and the 2010-built Hammonia Grenada, became the youngest-ever containerships to be scrapped, “but the pace of scrapping is barely catching up with the rate at which Panamaxes are being displaced by larger ships on trans-Panama routes,” Alphaliner said.
Ultra low charter rates, currently at subopex (operating expenses) levels, have failed to revive demand for ships in this sector. Charter rates have dropped below USD 5,000 per day in July last year and currently stand at only USD 4,000 – USD 4,350.
Despite this, the idle Panamax fleet of 4,000-5,300 TEU has remained high, counting 68 units, down from a peak of 98 units in October, and most of the reduction can be attributed to scrapping. Demand remains largely insufficient to notably reduce the overhang of surplus ships removed from trans-Panama routes.
Since the opening of the new Panama Canal locks in June last year, 133 Panamax ships have been removed from this route. Only 88 Panamax ships are currently involved in trans-Panama services, compared to 221 units in early June of 2016.