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Larger containerships are increasingly being consigned to hot or cold lay-up in harbours around the world as more new ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) are delivered.

Last month alone, MSC received the 19,462 teu MSC Mirjam and the 19,437 teu MSC Erica, Evergreen the 14,424 teu Taurus and NYK the 14,026 teu NYK Crane.

The MSC Mirjam has joined the Asia-North Europe Shogun/AE1 loop of the 2M alliance, replacing the 16,810 teu Eugen Maersk.

Eugen Maersk and sister Edith Maersk are expected to be redeployed onto the 2M’s Europe-Asia-US west coast AE6-TP6/Lion-Pearl pendulum service in a strategic upsizing move on the tradelane.

This relentless cascading creates severe headaches for carrier operations staff tasked with redeploying displaced owned and long-term chartered tonnage onto other trades.

According to Drewry Maritime Research, there are 34 containerships of 8,000-10,000 teu in lay-up; 13 of 10,000-12,000 teu and 21 ULCVs of over 12,000 teu idled.

“Prospects for these large ships are expected to remain dim until the spring, when the launch of the Ocean and THE alliances, scheduled for April, will spur chartering activity,” said Alphaliner.

The spike in the number of redundant bigger containerships is, in part, also a result of the demise of Hanjin, as a third of the South Korean carrier’s fleet of 622,000 teu consisted of ships of 10,000 teu and over.

Alphaliner adds that there are 10 former Hanjin-controlled ships of 8,500-10,000 teu lying idle, yet to enter the spot market.

According to Alphaliner, the number of idle containerships at 28 November reached 357 units, 1.5m teu, equating to 7.4% of the global cellular fleet.

It said: “The container charter market continues to battle through a depressed environment….oversupply remains at a substantial level for most ship sizes.”

However, it is the classic panamax sector of 4,000-5,100 teu ships that continues to suffer most: 75 are currently seeking employment around the world.

The segment “remains chronically oversupplied”, said Alphaliner, and the consultant expects the situation to get worse by the end of the year, as a number of panamax vessels are due for redelivery in the next few weeks.

Nevertheless, a moribund containership charter market is good news for carriers which are able to pick up tonnage very cheaply, and with no long-term commitment.

For example, a broker notes that Maersk Line recently snapped up the 5,039 teu CSL Manhattan at $4,100 per day on a two-month time charter with options for 12 months, including free positioning.

In January 2015, Maersk would have paid $15,000 a day for the same ship, for a 12-month time charter plus options, and would have been required to take the vessel on hire from its spot position.

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