2023-2024 to Break Record for New Container Ships

Traditionally there is a large uptick in orders for new vessels when shipowners make exceptionally high profits. Later when the new builds are eventually delivered by the yard, it shrinks the profits of ship owners. Thus the time-honored tradition creates an ongoing boom and then bust behavior that has continued for over a century.

“The philanthropy of the shipowners is evidently inexhaustible. The amount of tonnage on order guarantees a long continuance of low freight rates.”

Shipbroker J.C. Gould, Angier & Co. in 1894
The container industry has experienced the most profitable two years in shipping history in 2021-22. Right on cue, owners ordered more new container ships than ever before.

The outstanding orders for new container ships now stands around 7.1 million twenty foot equivalent units. The previous peak was 6.6 million TEU back in 2008. Tonnage on ordered was roughly 60% of the capacity of the on-the-water fleet, at that point.

Record New Build Deliveries in 2023-2024

The scale of upcoming deliveries is completely unprecedented. The previous single-year record for annual growth was 1.7 million TEUs in 2014. Annual fleet growth averaged 970,000 TEUs in 2001-20. Based on current projections TEUs for 2023-2024 will end up being 2.6 times higher than that average.

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