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Sea freight, a sector disorganized by the Covid-19 crisis but now in full recovery, is facing a shortage of ships which is pushing shipowners to order them with all little hope of seeing the shortage quickly be filled.

“The order book for container ships is booming,” noted analysts at broker Banchero Costa.

They calculated that in the first seven months of the year at least 276 new ships were ordered for a total of 2.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a unit of measure for containers.

But the time needed to build a ship – at least two years – should not be enough to calm the overheating in the short term.

“Deliveries should remain at the same level in 2021 and 2022”, resume analysts of the Italian broker, it is only “the year 2023 which should exceed the record of 2015 in terms of capacity”.

Until then, “everything that can float is used” by the shipowners, summarizes with AFP the head of the consulting firm Sea Intelligence Alan Murphy.

In the first seven months of 2021, at least 276 new vessels were ordered for a total of 2.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a unit of measure for containers, according to experts (AFP / Archives – Saeed KHAN )

The demand for transport and logistics services has experienced a very strong rebound since the second half of 2020 due to the shift in household consumption, particularly in Western countries, to consumer goods to the detriment of services which continue to be affected by health restrictions.

Added to this is the need for companies to replenish their stocks, which were largely depleted last year when trade was almost brought to a halt by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result, the transport of goods, and in particular sea freight, is struggling to meet needs, resulting in the shortage of containers and ships leading to higher transport costs.

– Full pockets –

For example, the Freightos Baltic index, which takes into account the cost of freight on the main sea routes, has increased by more than five times in one year for a trip from China to the west coast of the United States, but all routes are affected.

Enough to bail out the pockets of shipowners after ten years of scarcity: thus the world’s leading container carrier, the Danish giant AP Møller-Maersk, garnered 30% more in the second quarter of 2021 than in the whole of 2020. .

CMA-CGM is not left out: the French company posted Friday a net profit in the second quarter twenty-five times greater than a year earlier in the same period, enough to finance new vessels more easily.

A total of 22 container ships were ordered in April by the Marseillais, expected in 2023 and 2024. By way of comparison, the company will receive only 14 this year.

In the meantime, the hunt for used boats is open: 15 have joined the company’s fleet since the start of the year and 17 should be added by December, a “significant” number compared to d other years.

– Larger fleet –

The delivery in the years to come of these new transport capacities should not overwhelm the shipowners’ supply, underlines Mr. Murphy, nor reduce costs.

According to the Sea Intelligence analyst, the new environmental laws are even helping to encourage the need for a larger fleet.

Limiting the speed of ships, a measure defended by France within the International Maritime Organization (IMO), creates the need for new ships to maintain rotations, if only at the same level.

The installation of tanks for alternative fuels, whose emissions are less polluting, contributes to reducing the carrying capacity of ships.

It will also be necessary to replace those whose scheduled demolition has been delayed to meet current demand.

According to Banchero Costa, the year 2021 could be one of the three weakest years since 2011 for the number of retired ships, and 2023 among the three strongest.

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