Past decade suggests surprises aplenty in shipping

So it is the start of a new decade and one wonders what surprises it might bring in the shipping world?

There have been plenty of them that gained attention worldwide and also on the local scene, but the downturn in the global economy last year was far from good news for the industry.

Major container ports throughout the world recorded a significant drop in the number of containers handled.

And, at times, there were more than 550 boxships laid-up for varying periods at anchorages and ports in Europe or the Far East.

Other sectors of the industry were also affected and, at one stage, 12% of the world fleet of pure car and truck carriers were in some form of lay-up.

Another major casualty was the shipbuilding industry, where a few months ago one source reported that orders for more than 350 vessels of all types, including 281 bulk carriers, had been cancelled.

This recession also had a flow-on effect for engine builders and other major suppliers to the industry.

But it was a good year for demolition yards in Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan, where tankers, bulk carriers, car carriers and a record number of older container ships ended their days.

During the last quarter of the year, the largest vessels of their types have featured in the news. On October 28, Royal Caribbean took delivery of Oasis of the Seas from STX Europe's yard at Turku.

The largest cruise ship ever built at 225,282gt, the 360m long vessel was designed to carry a maximum of 6296 passengers and a crew of 2165.

More recently, the largest ship ever built, the 260,941gt, 564,763dw, 458.54m-long Knock Nevis, launched in September 1975 and lengthened in 1980, made its last voyage.

The Fred Olsen interests sold the ultra large crude carrier-cum-storage vessel in November to Asian interests, possibly for further use as a floating storage and off-loading unit.

However, the buyers have since sold the vessel for scrap. The vessel, which has had a colourful history, arrived off Alang on December 20, having made its last voyage under the name Mont and the flag of Sierra Leone.

It is estimated it could take the best part of a year to dismantle this record-holder.

On the local scene, there have been interesting changes and developments.

In 2002, 10 of the 4100TEU container vessels were built for a round-the-world service.

Today, only four of them are still calling here on a weekly Tanjung Pelepas hub service. And with the phasing in of the larger ships, the older remaining first and second-generation vessels were all sent for demolition in 2002.

The introduction of the larger class also brought an end to the North America east coast services operated by the Blue Star Line and Hamburg-Sud.

The latter company has been calling here again since the middle of last year.

The decade saw Maersk take over P&O Nedlloyd and Hapag-Lloyd acquired the CP Ships group.

Mediterranean Shipping started calling here in March 2006 and since then has provided a diverse line-up of chartered and owned vessels, some dating back to the 1970s.

The lucrative seasonal cruise ship market resulted in much larger vessels calling, with several taking their turn at establishing new port records.

Although cruise ship visits have increased over the past couple of years, it is of interest to note that 360 cruise ship visits, including 93 to Dunedin, were recorded in the decade.

Many will have watched all types of vessels come and go during the past 10 years.

Others may not even afford them a cursory glance unless some well-publicised spectacular and special event is to take place.

And this was certainly the case on the evening of February 25, 2006, when both sides of the lower harbour were lined with spectators watching the arrival of Zhen Hua 5 from Shanghai, with three fully-assembled container cranes.

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