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Idled ships return to service

April 23 - After AXS-Alphaliner reported a decrease in idled container ship capacity during the first half of April, the first dip in six months, experts are predicting a surge of overcapacity by the end of the year as seasonal cargo volume increases.

According to AXS-Alphaliner, on March 31, the idle fleet stood at 485 vessels of 1.42 million teu, representing 11.3 percent of the global fleet. By April 13 this percentage had dropped to 1.31 million teu or 10.4 percent of the fleet, with 486 vessels.

Over the coming months, it is likely that the idled fleet will shrink as recently suspended seasonal loops, and larger ships on other loops, are re-introduced. Shipping companies, "K" Line, Cosco, OOCL, Hanjin and MOL, amongst others, are also anticipating a re-deployment of laid-up vessels as idle fleet capacity picks up.

That said, the bleak economic outlook could see the idle fleet soaring up to over 2 million teu after the peak of the season, Alphaliner warns.

Meanwhile, Drewy Shipping Consultants has expressed concerns in a new report that little is being done by carriers to cut capacity. "Capacity Management - Surviving the Container Crisis," emphasises the need for container lines to cancel more orders, scrap older ships and lay-up newer ships. Whilst carriers have so far cut capacity from 20 to 25 percent, this has achieved little in preventing depleted freight rates.

The problem extends beyond shipping, and into the ocean, rail and air freight sectors, with FedEx reporting a forthcoming drop of 14 wide-body aircraft from its fleet.

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