Cash-rich owners double containership orderbook in 2021

With freight rates setting new records every week, cash-rich container shipowners have splurged on new tonnage like never before.

The previous annual record for new container ship orders has just been broken, measured in capacity, in less than eight months, according to new data from international shipowning organisation BIMCO.

A total of 619 containerships are now on order for future delivery. Of those, 381 have been ordered in 2021 alone. Never has 3.44m teu been ordered in such a short time span. Still, it’s not a record for the total orderbook, as 6.8m teu were on order by the end of July 2008, compared to 5.3m teu by late August.

“Today the container ship orderbook holds 5.3m teu of shipping capacity which is scheduled to be added to the fleet from 2023 and onwards. Entering 2021, the orderbook stood just at 2.5m teu. Since then, a record high 3.3m teu has been ordered, indicating that shipowners are going big on investing in new capacity,” commented Peter Sand, BIMCO’s chief shipping analyst.

The 16,000 teu ship has been the most popular order in 2021 to date, proving more versatile than the megamaxes which led previous years ordering charge.

“It is very much a sign of the times too; you go big, or you don’t go at all. You order four, five or six ships, or as much as 20 units, in one go, and at one yard only. The buying power when you spend $2.5bn is significant,” said Sand.

The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) continued its remarkable climb today. The reference index for spot box shipments jumped another 45 points this week to a new record of 4,386 points.

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.


  1. Knee jerk ordering will create a surplus of shipping space in a few years. Happens in every industry, business and practice. Look at the oil industry as a prime example.

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