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.