Average size of boxships and LNG carriers more than doubles over the past 20 years

Average size of boxships and LNG carriers more than doubles over the past 20 years

The average size of containerships and LNG carriers has more than doubled over the past 20 years, according to data from Clarkson Research.

The average vessel size in the world cargo fleet covered by Clarkson Research has increased by 69% over the last two decades to hit 30,582 dwt as of the start of this month.

“[S]eaborne trade growth can stimulate upsizing as owners seek to win a greater share of trade via more cost-efficient operations, while in challenged markets, the need to lower transportation unit costs can become even more urgent,” Clarkson Research noted.

While tanker sizes have actually decreased in average size by 1% since 1997, bulkers, boxships and gas carriers have all leapt in size.

Seaborne trade in iron ore and coal has tripled in the last 20 years) and this has clearly helped induce bulk carrier upsizing. Since 1997, average bulker fleet dwt has risen by 53% to over 73,000 dwt. This upsizing trend looks set to continue, with the bulker orderbook averaging over 102,000 dwt per ship.

“VLOC ordering has played a part in this but incremental ‘design creep’ in smaller categories, for example Supramax to Ultramax or Panamax to Kamsarmax, is a significant factor too,” Clarkson Research noted in its most recent weekly report.

In the container sector, orders for ships of 22,000 teu class have helped to push the average boxship size to over 48,700 dwt, up by 104% in two decades.

“Again, this trend looks set to continue, with the orderbook averaging almost 84,000 dwt. Upsizing here reflects the quest for competitiveness via lower transportation unit costs, though there are other very obvious drivers too, notably the opening in 2016 of the new locks at the Panama Canal,” Clarkson Research reported.

Upsizing has been more pronounced still in the gas carrier fleet, with average size having risen by 116% to 32,600 dwt in 20 years.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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