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Shipbuilding orderbook falls to 31-year low against existing fleet

Photo: Yangzijiang Yangzijiang yard from the air
The shipbuilding orderbook has dropped to its lowest level in terms of ratio to the existing fleet in 31 years, according to Clarksons Research.

In a review of 2020 Clarksons Research managing director Steven Gordon noted the volume of newbuildings orders was down 29% last year with 53.9m dwt in tonnage contracted, compared to 76m dwt in 2019.

The decline in bulk carrier newbuilding orders was particularly sharp with a 58% drop to 13.5m dwt in 2020 compared to 32m dwt in the previous year. The decline in tankers newbuild contracting was not nearly so steep with orders down 8% at 23.8m dwt last year against 25.9m dwt in 2019.

Although newbuilding orders fell by 29% across the year Q4 saw a considerable uptick with the highest order uptake since Q1 2018.

The lower contracting of newbuildings in 2020 resulted in the shipbuilding orderbook shrinking some 19% according to Clarksons, while the world fleet grew 3% to 2.1bn dwt.

As a percentage of the existing fleet the shipbuilding orderbook is now at 7%, a 31-year low according to Gordon. By comparison at the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 the shipbuilding orderbook equalled more than 50% of the existing global shipping fleet in service.

Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic global seaborne trade fell 3.8% last year, although this figure is still lower than the 4% drop in trade experienced in the year following the global financial crisis.