By Gavin van Marle

While much of the recent focus in liner shipping has been on the creation of the P3 alliance and its ramifications, should it gain regulatory approval, according to research group Alphaliner, Taiwanese carrier Evergreen should be garnering equal attention.

There was a time, during the 1990s, that the steadfastly independent container line was the world’s largest, but as others pressed forward with fleet expansion programmes, Evergreen gradually began to drop down the list, to find itself at number seven last year. This was largely a result of its decision in 2004 to refrain from ordering new vessels, believing that prices were too high – a decision most would consider correct, given the problems that some carriers, such as Zim, have had with ill-timed orders.

However, after a six-year hiatus, Evergreen founder Chang Yung-Fa announced in 2010 that the company would invest a staggering $5 billion in 100 new ships. In fact, since that announcement, 45 have been ordered, almost half of which have already been delivered – enough to have a significant effect on the market, according to Alphaliner.

The consultancy has calculated that Evergreen’s slot capacity has risen by just under 30 per cent since January 2012, increasing from 607,000 TEUs to 806,000 TEUs following the delivery of nineteen 8,500-8,800 TEU L-type vessels and one 13,800-TEU unit, as well as some chartered tonnage.

The effect has been to take it from a market share of 3.8 per cent of global capacity at the beginning of last year to 4.6 per cent this month. And the rate of its fleet expansion is set to increase, Alphaliner notes. By the end of next year, it is scheduled to take delivery of another thirteen L-type and nine 14,000-TEU vessels, an additional 235,000 TEUs of slot capacity which would take Evergreen’s market share up to 4.7per cent by the end of this year and 5.4 per cent by the end of 2014.

This will have a dramatic effect on the capacity offered in its services, and possibly in the trades it operates – although as a carrier that has largely remained outside alliance arrangements, the ultimate effects remain difficult to discern. Nonetheless, Alphaliner’s calculations suggest that the carrier’s operational capacity on its Asia-North Europe and Asia-Middle East/Indian subcontinent service will increase by 19 per cent next year; on its services into Africa by 41 per cent; on its intra-European service by 50 per cent; on its Asia-South American services by 61 per cent; and on its service between Asia and Australasia by a breathtaking 301 per cent

And there appears little Evergreen can do by way of fleet reduction, given that the carrier has relatively few vessels on charter, with only a handful of agreements due to expire in 2014, and its opportunities for scrapping are limited to ten 4,230-TEU ships that were built in 1993 and 1994 and which are likely to be made redundant by cascading.

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (