The fleet of classic Panamax containerships of 4,000-5,300 TEU dropped to 543 units, against its peak of 670 witnessed in 2013, according to Alphaliner.
The obsolescence of the classic Panamax ships comes on the back of the opening of the new Panama locks in June 2016, which allowed much larger Neo-Panamax ships to transit between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
These vessels now struggle to find sufficient alternative employment options to keep all of the fleet busy, leading to an oversupply and poor prospects in the short to medium term.
The number of Panamax ships of 4,000-5,300 TEU transiting the Panama Canal dwindled from 221 vessels to only 47 units over a period of 15 months from June 1, 2016 to September 1, 2017, according to Alphaliner.
Of the 47 ships that remain on the trans-Panama routes, 30 are currently deployed on three Far East-US East Coast/US Gulf services.
By comparison, up to 150 classic Panamaxes were employed on 15 such loops prior to June 2016, while a further 50 units were deployed in other trans-Panama services.
“Classic Panamax containerships have faced a double whammy, both from the opening of the new Panama locks that has made some 170 of them redundant on the trans-Panama trades, while cascadings triggered by the constant stream of ULCS newbuildings have pushed classic Panamax ships out of other tradelanes,” Alphaliner said.