Top 25 Container Liner Operators

By MarEx 2014-01-15 13:26:00

World’s largest carriers

Dynamar has issued the latest, 11th edition of its annual Top 25 Container Liner Operators publication. It offers an exclusive insight into world’s largest container shipping companies, their history, nature, characters, developments, strategies, relationships and performances.

The publication opens with a summary of the Top 25 carriers looking at their operated vessel fleet, capacity, carryings, container box fleets and subsidiaries. Furthermore, this section includes financial results for the full year 2012 and the first 9 months of 2013. For the five-year period 2008/2012, a summary of main performance and financial parameters is also provided for the operators consistently forming the Top 20. It concludes with the shares of operated vessel capacity by region of control and by company type.

Turbulent waters

Three events caused container liner operators to sail through extremely turbulent waters:

the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Bros leading to worldwide economic disaster
the October 2008 abolition of the Conference system in the EU
the October 2009 creation of the Shanghai Containerised (Export) Freight Index (SCFI)

Although the 2009 10% drop in worldwide container trade was repaired by a growth of 11% in 2010, by then continuous volatility with respect to freight rates had taken hold of the liner trades. This was, not in the least, due to the SCFI spot rates out of Shanghai to selected destinations.

These were widely published and commented upon, creating a new transparency and therewith a different rate level awareness. Soon, the SCFI had become a benchmark to whose levels shippers/consignees expected their rates to be adjusted every week again. Therewith, indices based on spot rates had developed as a leading indicator for contract rates. The effects were further aggravated by seemingly ever shorter economic cycles.

The answer

Cost reduction, in the form of larger, less fuel consuming and more efficient ships has been the answer of many of the Top 25 container liner operators. Therewith they followed the example already set by Maersk Line’s 2006-launched 15,600 TEU E-class. With high volumes and an excellent relationship between time spent at sea (long) versus time in port (short) in combination with the presence of capable ports, the Europe-Far East trade is the ideal route to accommodate ULCS in order to reap the maximum from their economies of scale.

Seventeen of the Top 25 carriers serve the Europe-Far East trade and during 2013, the final two who had yet to do so, also ordered ULCS: “K” Line 5x 14,000 TEU and Yang Ming 15 similarly sized ships.

At the end of 2013, the eighteen Top 25 ULCS carriers controlled 100% of all ULCS capacity operating (196 ships/2.55 million TEU) and 95% of the orderbook (130 vessels/1.84 million TEU).

Where should all these ships go?

The question of course is whether all this capacity can be filled. Ships usually stay around for some 25 years and by definition they are too large for a trade when ordered. However, Dynamar’s Car/Cap Ratio, one of the many features of the new Top 25 report, shows that the relevant carriers’ indexed containership capacity has, since 2005, grown faster than their indexed full container volumes. The former is now exceeding the latter by 20%. The flood of big ships may well have contributed to this situation.

Boosted by its domestic volumes, China Shipping Container Lines is the only East-West carrier whose liftings increased faster than capacity. This has resulted in a positive Car/Cap Ratio of 1.10. The situation is the most severe at Hyundai Merchant Marine whose Ratio has fallen to 0.59 - a clear indication that the South Koreans’ liftings have not at all kept pace with the development of their operated space.

A matter of control

In the early 2000s it was often believed that Asian container carriers were to outstrip their Old Continent-contenders by capacity. However, at present just seven European Top 25 lines exceed the 6.6 million TEU capacity operated by fifteen North and South East Asian box operators by 21%. In other words, more than half (52%) of all Top 25 container ship capacity is deployed by European carriers against 43% by their Far East competitors. Combined, Middle East-domiciled HDS Lines and UASC, and South American CSAV operate the remainder 4%.

Perhaps more than commonly realised, container liner operators are either publicly listed, or are themselves owned by a publicly listed group. There are 16 such companies within the Top 25. Jointly, they are responsible for 61% of the operated capacity.

More …

Many more topics and subjects than the above are discussed and analysed in the core of the 2013/2014-edition of Dynamar’s “Top 25 Container Liner Operators” which consists of the profiles of each of the individual Top 25 carriers and their affiliated companies. In summary, each profile contains:

An opening page of at-a-glance key details, overviews, indexes and ratios on literally anything container shipping company-relevant, showing the subject’s progression since 2005

A history and corporate background section: how the carrier got to where it is today

Operated containership fleet and orderbook development

Trade lanes and markets served as a vessel operator and as a slot-charterer

Overview of interests in container terminals worldwide

Summary of container-related and other relevant affiliations or activities

Membership of alliances, consortia, conferences and discussion agreements

Concluding the study is a separate chapter on Alliances, Consortia or similar. This includes profiles on each of the three existing East-West Alliances and the two similar proposed arrangements, i.e. P3 Network and the extended G6 Alliance. There is also a comprehensive listing of all known North-South and regional consortia, as well as conferences and discussion agreements, and a glossary featuring all major, main and regional/feeder trade lanes along which the Top 25 are active (as vessel providers) listed by trade and country.

All this has been complemented by around 160 different tables and another 30 figures of supporting information.

The 2013/2014 edition of the Top 25 Container Liner Operators is immediately available and can be ordered for direct download under the link www.dynamar.com/publications/121 or by contacting Dynamar B.V.

Prices (ex VAT) are as follows:

  • PDF: EUR 565
  • Printed/bound by priority surface mail: EUR 580
  • PDF & printed/bound: EUR 645

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