Drewry: Is CMA CGM Playing Catch-Up with Carriers?

Illustration; Image Courtesy: CMA CGM

Having been dormant for over 18 months the containership orderbook could be about to jolt back to life with an unconfirmed order for nine 22,000 TEU ships, Drewry informed.

Despite a long period of sobriety it appears that carriers’ addiction to big new ships still remains in the blood stream, with news that French major CMA CGM is in the final stages of negotiations for six firm orders, plus three options.

If confirmed, the ships would become the largest of their kind, overtaking the 21,413-TEU OOCL Hong Kong that was delivered earlier this year. The new ships are likely to be LNG dual fuelled with China’s Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS) and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in the running for the contracts, either solely or partly.

Given the chronic and ongoing overcapacity problem that has blighted carrier profits in recent years what could have tempted CMA CGM to risk undermining the still very fragile recovery?

From CMA CGM’s point of view it is faced with demotion in the carrier rankings post Cosco and OOCL merger, while it was also short of top-end ships compared to its nearest rivals.

Drewry said that, as compelling as the individual case may be, no carrier operates in a bubble and should this order become reality there could well be some hidden costs that CMA CGM and all of its cohorts will have to bear.

“From an industry perspective there is simply no good reason to add these ships to already overcrowded oceans,” the shipping consultancy added.

Although it is not known when and if at all these ships will hit the water, the existing orderbook is already close to 3 million TEU due by the end of 2020, to add the active fleet that recently passed the 20 million TEU milestone.

The bulk of new deliveries will arrive before 2019 and are heavily skewed at the top end of the range with 18,000+ TEU units taking up nearly 40% of the orderbook.

“Adding even more ships to this top-heavy pool will make the task of deployment and cascading harder than it already is,” Drewry said.

While these ships on their own “will not significantly alter the supply-demand dynamics, it will become more of a problem for the industry if herd mentality kicks in and others follow,” according to Drewry.

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