Drewry Shipping Consultants expects an increase in transit time between Asia and Europe. The amount of Ultra Large Container Vessels (UCLVs) arriving over the next few years is an unwanted legacy from a period when carriers were over-confident in the market and possibly misguided in the benefits those ships offer. And while it will be challenging to meet the added capacity, the maritime consultant says there are reasons to believe that the task will not be as onerous as it initially appears.
It is common that the annual delivery schedules are adjusted downwards in time. It is highly unlikely that all of the ULCVs scheduled for the next two years will arrive as originally planned with many being pushed into following years. Just because a new ship enters a trade it does not automatically follow that the net capacity of the route increases. Slow steaming gives lines the option to phase in a new vessel to a weekly service and maintain the existing capacity, assuming the new ship is of a similar size to those it is joining. The trade-off is longer transit times between ports.
Moreover, Drewry said that the decision to slow ships down is probably also motivated by a desire to reduce ship fuel consumption in light of the anticipated higher bunker costs associated with IMO 2020, but nonetheless, it will enable more ships to be entered into the trade without adversely hiking up capacity.
Shippers need to take into account that the transit times will increase. However, they will also benefit from the more sustainable way of transportation as slow steaming will bring down emissions. Foldable containers will have their impact on this as well. Time savings generated by handling four empty containers at once instead of four moves, create the possibility to steam even slower while maintaining the same transit time. In this way, shipping lines reduce their fuel consumption even more.