Demand for classic Panamax containerships, which picked up in the recent weeks, has driven a major drop in the number of idle units in the size range from 4,000 to 5,100 TEU, according to Alphaliner.
Over the past month, the count reduced from 50 to just 22 ships, of which only twelve are still believed ‘spot’ for charter.
The sharp fall is mainly driven by increased demand from the intra – Far East routes, which have become the biggest single trade for Panamax ships. The number of ships of over 4,000 TEU, deployed in the Far East regional trades, has increased steadily since 2010, from 30 to 195 units currently, 153 of which are classic Panamaxes.
Chinese domestic routes alone employ 63 of these ships, primarily on high-volume trades that connect Northern and Southern China.
Alphaliner noted that most of the new demand is fuelled by the vessel size increase on North Asia – South East Asia services, as well as by an increasing number of high-volume feeder routes in South East Asia.
“The relatively low charter rates for classic Panamaxes have enticed operators to upgrade some services from the 1,500 – 3,500 TEU size to the 4,000 – 5,100 TEU scale, with Panamax vessels chartered at rates similar to those paid for smaller ships.”