Over 100 more classic Panamaxes would need to be scrapped in the coming months to re-balance supply and demand, and reduce the total pool to less than 470 units, compared to 670 units four years ago, according to Alphaliner.
Only such a drastic reduction could elevate rates from their current all-time lows of USD 4,200 – USD 4,500 per day, with positive side effects on the 2,700 – 3,800 TEU size bracket as well.
Hard decisions have to be taken, such as scrapping ten-year-old ships on the eve of their second Classification Special Survey. Since many cash-short owners can’t afford the survey-related costs, such vessels are being laid up, sold for scrap, or sold to bargain buyers at distressed prices.
Since the opening of the new Panama Canal locks on 26 June, no fewer than 120 classic Panamax ships, referring to vessels of 4,000-5,300 TEU on a 13 row/32.30 m beam, have been displaced from trans-Panama routes.
“The exodus is set to continue, with a further 30-40 classic Panamaxes to be removed from the trade over the coming months,” Alphaliner said, adding that the total redundancies of vessels in this size range are expected to reach 150-160 units by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Non operating owners (NOO) bear the brunt of these redundancies, as carriers keep re-delivering charter vessels at an unprecedented pace. As a result, NOO units form the bulk of the 4,000-5,300 TEU vessel idle pool. In spite of 50 sales for scrap so far this year, the count of unemployed classic Panamax ships currently reaches 96 units, 30 of which anchored at long term lay-up spots in Asia.