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Maersk Line is to postpone delivery of nine newbuild 14,000 teu ‘utility’ ships with the last vessel to be received at the end of 2018, instead of at the end of this year.

At parent group APMM’s 2016 results presentation on Wednesday, CFO Jakob Stausholm said: “We have managed to delay delivery at no cost, and operationally it actually fits us quite okay.”

Maersk Line says it does not need the ships as it is able to charter vessels of this size easily and cheaply in the current depressed market, and has recently taken on long-term charter six former Hanjin-operated 13,100 teu vessels at a fraction of the daily hire rate the South Korean carrier paid.

It was also reported that 2M partner MSC had chartered three more 13,100 teu ships previously operated by Hanjin.

After reporting a net loss of $1.9bn for 2016, due to an impairment hit of $2.6bn related to its drilling and supply sectors, transport and energy group APMM is under pressure from shareholders – who are seeing their dividend halved – to reign back on capital expenditure.

Yesterday, Maersk Line said: “The decision [to delay delivery of the ships] will have a positive effect on Maersk Line’s cashflow.”

Pierre Danet, CFO of Maersk Line, said the 2016 loss of $376m by the carrier was “due to a 19% decline in freight rates. The loss is clearly unsatisfactory”.

He added: “On the positive side, we won market share (12% up in Q4), continued to drive costs down and increased our utilisation. We remain competitive.”

According to Alphaliner data, Maersk Line currently charters 360 of its total 615 operational vessel fleet – in terms of capacity, this equates to 45.9% which allows the carrier plenty of scope to react to supply/demand peaks and troughs, not least because many of the ships are now being fixed on flexible time periods.

However its peers enjoy even greater flexibility: MSC has 62.5% of its capacity chartered-in; CMA CGM, 62.4%; and fourth-ranked Cosco, 72.3%.

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