The global container vessel fleet is all set to exceed the 30-million TEU mark for the first time in history in 2024, as a wave of new container vessels have hit the water, per BIMCO. The global fleet expanded by 8% in 2023, delivering 350 new container vessels, representing a record 2.2 million TEU. This superseded the earlier record in 2015 when 1.7 million TEU had hit the water.
This year, however, 478 container vessels boasting a capacity of about 3.1 million TEU have been scheduled for delivery, beating the record of 2023 by 41%. Consequently, the container fleet capacity will grow in 2024 by nearly 10%. While the recycling of vessels is also anticipated to increase in the current year, the fleet could rise by almost 2.8 million TEU, surpassing the 30-million TEU milestone by this year’s end and for the first time.
Ships that are over 15,000 TEU are dominating the deliveries. Per BIMCO, this segment has grown 28% in 2023 with about 1.3 million TEU delivered, and an additional 83 vessels are likely to be given this year, adding about 1.4 million TEU to the segment capacity and further doubling the capacity in four years.
The BIMCO research also shows that China’s yards have successfully and officially established themselves as the world’s top constructors of containerships, surpassing South Korea’s 38% capacity share in 2023 and 2024 with approximately 55% of the supplied capacity. With a 3-4% rise in ship capacity in 2024, the increase in container trade is predicted to be substantially less than the fleet capacity expansion.
The bottom line is that the demand and supply imbalance is likely to broaden in 2024. Still, continuous disruption in the Red Sea could tighten the balance as container vessels embark on even longer voyages via the Cape of Good Hope, masking the overcapacity in the market. However, the successful delivery of 3 million TEU in 2025 and 2026 and the lack of recycling may also lead to overcapacity if the Red Sea scenario is resolved.
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