Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shipping Lines Look For Increased Tonnages In 2010

(Whilst Some Laid Up Shipping Has A Use After All)
Shipping News Feature

SCOTLAND – WORLDWIDE - Whilst shipping lines collectively harden their attitudes to what they view as perilously depressed rates in an effort to escape from the collective poverty they have endured in the past months the list of container ships and tankers laid up around the world seems to endure. Many of the major shipping groups are making positive noises about rising returns which they anticipate next year but, in reality, higher rates are more likely to boost profits than tonnage increases.

Hundreds of vessels remain at anchor around the coasts of the world, deploying them in this manner means a crew level of around 10% as compared to a working vessel. These ships are, for the most part, not just old hulks, but include the greyhounds of the container freight world such as the “Maersk Beaumont” the seventh, and last, ship of the VWS 4000 class built at the German Volkswerft Stralsund shipyard and delivered to Maersk in December 2007. Now together with her fleet sisters (others of which lay idle in Thailand) the vessel, able to carry over 4000 TEU at 30 knots, is likely to remain at her mooring for many more months, the running costs of the newer, smaller, faster container carriers simply too expensive in terms of fuel to compete against a slower larger fleet.

If industry statistics are to be believed, and there is no reason to doubt them, the laid up tonnage around the globe of container carriers alone exceeds 10% of the world’s fleet. With many new ships ordered during the boom years now coming off the blocks only a surge in freight tonnage will mean the harbours from Cornwall’s River Fal to Shanghai will begin to return to normal.

At least the “Maersk Beaumont” has something happening. Tied up in Loch Striven for months and, unsurprisingly, criticised by locals wary of the growing fleet idling in this picturesque setting, the ship is now host to a new BBC series for 12 to 14 year olds involved in a TV adventure game, “Mission 2010”, which is being filmed across the vessels topsides and nether decks. Sadly for Maersk, who have made considerable effort to pacify their new neighbours with an open day and school trips aboard the ship, there is no profit, their BBC fee will be distributed amongst various local charities and Loch Striven community projects.

Some positive signs are there, the “Cimbria” another containership moored close to the other vessels in the Clyde until recently, sailed last month for Vlissingen and, if the optimistic predictions of the ship owners that tonnages are set to rise do come to fruition, then perhaps the screws of ships like the “Maersk Beaumont” will soon turn again to move her from her Scottish parking bay in the coming months.

With a new build cost of around £30 million she must be currently the most expensive TV film set on earth so let’s hope they are right.