During the summer, the cruise ship fleet surged past half a million berths of total capacity as the cruise industry continued to expand its horizons, according to Clarksons Research.
The industry has seen strong newbuilding investment this year, and while many of the new ‘mega-ships’ will likely be heading to sunny climes, there have been developments at the small end of the sector too, for ships venturing forth to remote and often chilly destinations.
Cruise ship ordering in 2016 was characterized by a rising demand for ‘expedition’ ships which would be sent to the Arctic. Nine such orders have been placed in 2016 to date, including some for voyages to the Poles, with other contracts for small vessels catering for the high-end, luxury market.
Overall, vessels with less than 1,000 berths have accounted for half of the 26 cruise ship orders placed so far this year.
The rapid expansion in the ‘mega-ship’ sizes has pushed the cruise fleet over its new milestone, and underpinned the expansion in the cruise ship orderbook to a record 60 units of 142,922 berths at the start of September. Around 70% of berth capacity ordered this year has been accounted for by ships of 4,000 berths and above.
Having expanded robustly by a CAGR of 4.3% p.a. in 2006-15, growth in the cruise fleet is now likely to accelerate in the next few years, as more ‘mega-ships’ are delivered. Cruise operators retain a positive market outlook, with increased passenger volumes in Asia expected to be a key driver of global cruise passenger growth, according to Clarksons.
Overall, 2016 is a record year for investment in the cruise ship sector, with estimated investment in the year to date at USD 8.9 billion, already up nearly 50% on the previous high reached last year.
“A large number of orders are also in the pipeline and are likely to be confirmed in the coming years, which could add at least another 65,000 berths to the orderbook,” Clarksons said.
Given the extremely subdued level of ordering in other vessel sectors, the cruise sector has accounted for almost 50% of the total estimated value of newbuilding investment in the year to date, and provided support to the European yards who dominate in this sector.