Seaspan Adds to Already Record Pace in Containership Orders

containership construction orders Seaspan
Berlin Bridge is one of the containerships built for Seaspan in 2019 (Seapan)

Published Jun 23, 2021 6:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

Construction orders for new containerships are continuing at a record pace in 2021 as carriers rush to expand and modernize their fleets to meet projected long-term demand growth. Following Hapag-Lloyd’s announcement that the line doubled its order for ultra-large boxships, Seaspan, the world’s largest containership lessor, announced that it was adding two containerships to its already large order book of 37 containerships due for delivery by 2024.

Few details were provided on the latest order, only that the lessor had ordered two 12,000 TEU containership newbuilds from an unspecified shipyard. The vessels are due for delivery during the fourth quarter of 2022 and will enter long-term charters with a global liner company. The unnamed customer also has a purchase option for the vessels.

"We are very pleased to continue facilitating our customer's growth by providing the most efficient newbuilds,” said Bing Chen, Chairman, President and CEO of Seaspan. 

Seaspan is a leading independent owner and operator of containerships, with the majority of its ships operating under long-term, fixed-rate time charters to the world's largest container shipping lines. Customers include Maersk, MSC, COSCO, CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd, with only Evergreen and HMM among the major operators not chartering vessels from Seaspan. The company’s current fleet includes 129 vessels with a total capacity of over one million TEU. 

With the new orders, Seaspan has a total of 39 containerships with a combined capacity of approximately 600,000 TEU being built. In 2021, the company also acquired four secondhand boxships. Among the orders Seaspan has disclosed are two 24,000 TEU ultra-large containerships, as well as six 15,000 TEU and five 12.000 TEU vessels, all to be deployed by MSC. The orders also include 10 dual-fuel LNG vessels for Zim and eight boxships to be operated by the ONE alliance.

In its recent analysis of the containership market, the industry trade group BIMCO reported that surging profits and high demand were driving the staggering pace of orders. In April and May alone, 55 vessels were ordered with a total capacity of over 344,000 TEU. This comes on top of the record-high 97 ships ordered in March. In the first five months of 2021, construction orders totaled 229 vessels with a capacity of over two million TEU bring the total orderbook to 4.35 million TEU. The orderbook for new containerships has doubled in size since the fall of 2020.

Market analysts IHS Markit detailed in a recent report that the orders in 2021 had reached the highest level in the past six years. Orders are well on their way to surpassing the 2.6 million TEU that they reported were orders in 2015. According to IHS Markit, the 2021 orders represent more than a fifth of the number of vessels currently in service. They estimated that the market could reach a total capacity of 24 million TEU over the next two to three years.

Vessel demolitions are also expected to have only a small impact on capacity in the near term. BIMCO expects demolitions to drop to their lowest levels since 2007. So far in 2021, only 10 boxships were retired with a total capacity of just over 8,000 TEU.