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OPINION : Talk of phasing out the humble 20ft shipping container is misplaced

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Following a contraction in output of newbuild 20ft shipping containers in 2021, ordering has recovered strongly this year, and contrary to popular opinion Drewry expects its share of the global container equipment fleet to remain above 25% for the foreseeable future.

Although the standard 20ft dry freight container has seen its share of the global equipment pool decline over the past decade, Drewry believes its role in the fleet is secure. Indeed, this year has seen production of the unit increase significantly with orders, particularly from ocean carriers robust. This will come as some relief to many beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) concerned at the limited availability of 20ft boxes over the past two years, which has led some to wonder if the equipment type might be on the way out.

In the first eight months of the year manufacturers based in China, which account for over 96% of global output, produced close to half a million teu, which was up almost 64% YoY and 35% on the corresponding period in 2020. Drewry expects output for the full year to total at least 900,000 teu, up from just below 560,000 teu in 2021.

In terms of buyers, transport operators, including ocean carriers, and traders were responsible for an estimated 72% of deliveries made in the January-August period of 2022 with the units needed for both replacement and expansion purposes.

Meanwhile, the demand for new 20ft containers for non-trading purposes, most notably in the static storage sector, remains robust as existing companies expand their operations and new players are attracted into the business.

While the sharp increase in the production of 20ft containers this year is partly related to some under-ordering last year as lessors and ocean carriers focused their purchasing activities on 40ft high cube containers where there was a global shortage, the demand factors for 20ft containers remain sound.

There are several industries where due to the nature of cargo moved – heavy and dense – 20ft containers are more appropriate to use and where companies have built their supply chains around this type of equipment. Ocean carriers, in particular, need to ensure that they have the inventory to satisfy these accounts, many of which are long-time customers of theirs.

Arguably, for lessors, the 20ft box is less marketable and, potentially, faces longer off-hire periods. Hence their purchasing of this size of box is expected to decline.

Meanwhile, and as already mentioned, the demand for 20ft containers in the non-maritime trading arena is strong and expanding and this will encourage traders to order more of these units.

Consequently, Drewry expects the 20ft container’s share of the fleet to remain stable over the next five years with the unit accounting for at least 26% of standard dry containers in service. And given the upside potential there is the prospect that this share will increase rather than decrease over the forecast period.

Container Census & Leasing and Equipment Forecaster

Drewry’s Container Equipment Forecaster provides quarterly market updates as well as our latest forecasts:

  • Detailed assessment of the global container fleet, including fleet structure and 5-year forecasts
  • Extensive profiling across all main equipment types including dry, refrigerated, regional and tank container fleets
  • Comprehensive ownership analysis – current structure and forecasts
  • Assessments and 5-year forecasts of newbuild and secondhand pricing, leasing rates and investment cash returns
  • Estimates and forecasts of smart device installation rates

Source : Drewry

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