The german merchant fleet continued to decline last year, losing its decades-long leading position in container traffic to china.
"It was to be expected that china would overtake us here," said alfred hartmann, president of the german shipowners’ association (vdr), in hamburg on wednesday. On the one hand, this is a late consequence of the long crisis after 2009, on the other hand, china is now the roughest trading nation and relies on very rough ships.
For several years now, the german merchant fleet has had around one-third fewer ships and is thus back at the level of 2008. However, ships are rougher on average than they were back then, so tonnage is much higher. Seaworthy trade has also increased worldwide by more than a third since 2008 to eleven billion metric tons. At the end of 2019, the merchant fleet comprised 2140 ships with 52.8 million GT, which is 184 ships or 4.7 million GT less than in the previous year. Overall, german shipowners control 4.9 percent of the shipping industry, ranking fifth in the world.
The spread of the new coronavirus sars-cov-2 is upsetting supply chains and slowing down international shipping. The exact effects are still open and were partly covered by the usual vacations for the chinese new year, the association said. Charter rates for bulk carriers have fallen by 30 to 40 percent or more in some cases, depending on the ship, cargo and trade lane. This is due to reduced imports of raw materials by china: as the factories were hardly producing at times, they also needed fewer raw materials.
In addition, the loading and unloading of container ships is stalled because there is a shortage of crane and truck drivers as well as port workers in the rough ports in the south of the country, too. This will lead to longer lay times. There is also a shortage of refrigerated containers because china imports a lot of refrigerated food and unloading is currently slow. They are clogging up the storage space at chinese terminals; sockets for the refrigerated containers are becoming scarce, and some of them have to be diverted to other ports. At
The crisis years also decimated the number of shipping companies, which now stand at 316 in the five coastal countries. Of these, 80 percent have less than ten ships.
The switch of shipping to new low-sulfur fuel with 0.5 percent sulfur at the beginning of the year did not go smoothly. Some of the fuel was not available everywhere, and some of it could not be mixed with fuel previously bunkered in other ports, it was reported.