Accordingly, Peter Sand, BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst reports that the orderbooks for dry bulk and container ships in particular have fallen sharply. At 63.4m DWT, the dry bulk orderbook is at its lowest level since April 2004 and 34.7% smaller than twelve months ago. Similarly, the orderbook for container ships has fallen 10.3% in the past 12 months to its lowest level since September 2003.

The decrease has left the orderbook to fleet ratio at its lowest level in many years at just 7.7%. This is however not a reason for a flurry of new contracting activity. The larger fleet means that even this lower ratio represents a significant amount of tonnage especially given the poor outlook.

Dry bulk contracting down by 6m DWT

Firstly, in the first seven months of the year, contracting for dry bulk vessels is down 65.6% from the start of the year and orders for new container ships are down 37.7%.

Deliveries of dry bulk ships are in fact considerably higher than last year: 31.8m DWT in the first seven months of this year compared to 22.6m DWT in the same period last year.

In contrast, deliveries of container ships are down 39.5% from the same period from last year, but as deliveries have still outpaced new orders, the orderbook has contracted. This year’s deliveries include nine ships above 23,000 TEU.

Smaller decline for tanker orderbooks

Similarly, the tanker sector also faced a decline, though "not as sharp as the falls in dry bulk and container shipping books," Sands commented.

The orderbook for crude oil tankers stands at 36.3m DWT and for the oil product tanker fleet at 12.1m DWT, down 4.2% and 12% from 12 months ago respectively.

Yet, product tankers is the only segment to have seen higher contracting this year than last, up 2.9% in the first seven months of the year at 3.2m DWT, though orders for new crude oil tankers have fallen 41.3% in the same period, a drop from 10.1m DWT last year to 5.9m DWT this year.

Demolition activity rises as yards re-open

As major demolition nations around the world have eased their lockdowns and once again opened their yards, June and July saw a strong uptick in demolitions. The overall demolition activity in July totalled 1.8mDWT, up by 1.2m DWT from July 2019, an almost 400% increase from demolitions in April 2020.

In particular dry bulk and container demolitions have increased, up 80.9% and 26.3% respectively, while 8.8m DWT of dry bulk capacity and 152,770 TEU of container ships have been sent for demolition since the start of the year.

Concerning fleet continuity, Sand concluded that

The continued increase in the supply of ships, despite higher demolitions and lower contracting, cannot be ignored as the volume of world trade is set for a considerable drop this year, and not forecasted to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2022. While the decline in contracting will result in slowing fleet growth in the coming years, balance in the shipping markets may prove elusive for many years to come.