Monday, December 31, 2012

Giant Freight Carriers May Not be the Wisest Container Shipping Investment Route

Iran Thinks Small but Home Grown as More Big TEU Carriers Come on Stream in 2013
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – DENMARK - IRAN – WORLDWIDE – Earlier this month we witnessed the official christening of the world’s largest container vessel, CMA CGM’s gigantic Marco Polo coming in at nearly 400 metres and capable of carrying a staggering 16,000 twenty foot boxes or their equivalent (TEU). The giant ship will soon be surpassed in the container shipping stakes when the first of Maersk’s giant 18,000 TEU Triple E series becomes operational in 2013. Many industry analysts have been sceptical for some while that the Danish freight and energy group will exercise its option for the final ten vessels in their pro forma order having committed to an initial twenty ships from the DSME shipyard in South Korea, a view reinforced by Maersk CEO Nils Andersen last month.

Now we have seen the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) taking a different tack with the unveiling this week of its latest home built box carrier, the 2,200 TEU Iran-Shahrekord taking the total of vessels owned by the national line or its subsidiaries to 165 and keeping the country in the top twenty of vessel tonnages owned worldwide with a little over 1% of the total global fleet. Many of the nation’s current crop of tankers and cargo carriers were constructed in China but in the past few years even the giant Panamax bulk carriers have been tended to be home built.

Despite the fact that Iran is largely persona non grata with the Western world the country still owns the largest fleet of vessels in the Middle East and IRISL has increasingly invested at home with shares in container manufacture as well as box handling terminals. Whilst the eyes of the world’s freight carriers grew wide with excitement at the thought of ever larger vessels at a time when tonnages were growing steadily the conservative approach of others such as IRISL by investing in feeder sized ships may prove to be a sounder economic approach in the short term despite the country’s role as global outcasts.