The number of container ships transporting goods around the world has fallen in the first half of 2014 but the total capacity of the global fleet continues to increase, consulting firm Drewry Maritime Research said in a note on Monday.
Drewry Maritime Research foresees a fall in the number of container ships on an annual basis this year for the first time in at least 20 years.
The container shipping industry has been struggling with over capacity because of there are too few goods to transport on too many vessels as a result of the economic downturn.
Despite fewer ships, nominal capacity of the global fleet continues to increase by about 6 percent a year, Drewry said.
"This growth in capacity now comes solely from the increase in average ship size, not from having more ships," Drewry wrote in a note.
The total number of container ships amounted to 5,088 vessels as of August with a capacity of 17.8 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU). That capacity has doubled in the past five years, global shipping association BIMCO estimates.
During the 12 months to the end of March 2014, 192 ships averaging about 2,600 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) were scrapped, according to Drewry's Container Forecaster reports. Demolitions are running at about 55 ships per quarter, it said.
About 230 new ships of all sizes are scheduled to be delivered in 2014, or 55 per quarter, and the number of new deliveries will fall to about 180 in 2015.
Maersk Line, a unit in A.P. Moller-Maersk, has managed to bring down costs per unit by using bigger vessels.
The largest container shipping company in the world has ordered 20 mega-size vessels with a capacity of 18,270 TEU. Ten have already been delivered from South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
The remaining 10 will be delivered and set on routes between Asia and Northern Europe later in 2014 and 2015.
Reporting by Ole Mikkelsen