The leased container fleet grew by 10.6 percent in 2011 and is expected to expand another 9.5 percent in 2012, according to Drewry Maritime Research’s latest Container Leasing Industry
The report highlights the way container lessors have picked up the slack of financially-strapped container lines in providing new boxes for the ever-increasing global container trade.
“The lessors’ expansion has continued to outrun that achieved for fleet owned by shipping lines, and resulted in the box lease industry winning back some share in ownership terms during 2010-11,” Drewry said. “Considerable ground had been lost during the earlier boom years of 2004-08, when shipping companies were in the ascendency and tended to dominate new box investment. The reverse has applied during 2010-11, when leased fleet growth was 50 percent higher as compared with line-owned equipment."
Andrew Foxcroft, author of the report, said leasing companies have bought record quantities of TEUs from 2010 through the first half of 2012, with container lines struggling to access capital.
“By contrast, the existing mix of publicly-quoted and privately-owned leasing firms, which make up the top ranks, have all along retained good access to competitive financing and continue to attract sizeable inward investment,” Foxcroft said. “Indeed, the interest forthcoming from both public and private investors has rarely been stronger.”
He added that investors have been attracted by the strong utilization levels of 95 percent or higher during 2011 and into 2012 for leasing companies.
“However, newbuild lease rates have not held up quite so well and continued to erode against new box prices – both in the standard and reefer sectors,” Drewry said. “New dry freight container prices were to fluctuate markedly during 2011, falling by about 25 percent by the year-end from their earlier peak of almost $3,000 (per container equivalent unit), although they subsequently revived by 20 percent again during the opening half of 2012 – to $2,750. By comparison, the average dry freight per diem fell by 30 percent throughout 2011 and has barely recovered at all since.”
Drewry said the leased container market has only now recovered from an unexpected surge in demand in early 2010, thanks largely to a poorer-than-expected peak season in 2011 and dampened expectations for peak season this year.
Container lines have maintained a global container/slot ratio of 1.85:1, compared to the nearly 2:1 ratio prior to 2009. - Eric Johnson