The lower fuel price may not be such a blessing for containership owners after all, especially with relation to slow-steaming which was originally introduced as a way to deploy more ships without increasing capacity on the strings.
Nevertheless, despite lower bunker costs that have been warmly welcomed by owners as they fight to attain profit, low oil prices have seen ship speeds go up now that the fuel is much cheaper, even in the tramp shipping segments, BIMCO said.
By mid-January 2016 HFO 380 cSt was quoted at USD 112 per tons in Rotterdam and USD 152 per tons in Singapore (Marine Bunker Exchange). This compares to USD 242 and 281 respectively one year ago. A drop in prices of 50%.
Higher ship speeds could usher in even more chaos in a market already struggling with overcapacity.
2015 saw the injection of 208 brand new ships with a combined transport capacity of 1.67 million TEU. This was the highest supply side capacity expansion ever, including 46 ultralarge containerships (more than 13,870 TEU), 66 feeders (up to 3,000 TEU) and 99 other ships with an average size of 8,160 TEU.
However, 2016 is expected to bring around only 850,000 TEU of new capacity. Yet, it will be a year where all fleet growth will happen in the size-segments larger than 8,000 TEU, just as it has been the case every year since 2012.
According to BIMCO, the only solace is that the work done by owners and investors managed to postpone the original agreed delivery dates. Over the past year, BIMCO estimates that the postponement rate of orderbook has gone up from 15% to 30% with most of the work done in the first half of 2015.