Blog July 12, 2016

Analysing the ITCO tank container survey

By Nicola Byers

The International Tank Container Association has published its 4th fleet survey, which has given a boost to the industry by showing steady growth.

The headline figure of the report – a comprehensive overview of the state of the industry – is that the world’s tank container fleet grew by 7.2% last year and now stands at 458,200 units around the world. Heike Clausen, ITCO president and a leading figure in the industry, believes that the growth reflects “accepted recognition of the tank container as a safe, reliable, economic means of transport” and describes the industry as “extraordinarily innovative and progressive”.

During these uncertain times, as the EU deals with the UK’s vote to leave and the US prepares for a presidential election that is sure to be eventful (that’s enough politics…), this is welcome news and shows that shippers are increasingly relying on tank containers because of the clear safety and economic advantages of this mode of transport.

The report also backs up a few trends that people in the industry have been observing recently.

The first of those is market consolidation. On the leasing side, Seaco Global, boosted by a merger with Cronos, is now the second biggest lessor, with 21% of the market. TAL         is the fifth biggest with 5% of the market, but that may change after its merger with Triton comes into effect. Overall, the top ten lessors account for 85% of the total fleet (172,000 tanks) and the top three (Exsif, Seaco Global and Eurotainer) account for 58% of the total fleet (118,000 tanks). In 2014, the top three were Cronos, Eurotainer and Exsif and they only accounted for only 52% of the market.

The operators are not quite as consolidated, with the top 10 accounting for almost 178,000 tanks – 54% of the global market. Stolt Tank Containers is number one here with 11% of the market, closely followed by Hoyer Group on 10%, Bulkhaul and Den Hartogh Logistics with 6% and Newport, Bertschi and China Rail Logistics on 5%.

Second, in manufacturing, there are signs that the low prices for raw materials, which had affected the leasing industry by making buying more attractive, may be coming to an end. Estimated manufacture this year is 43,780 units, down from 48,200 last year (though still up on the 2013 and 2014 totals). Almost all the manufacturing takes place in China, with CIMC responsible for 46% of the total. Elsewhere, Welfit Oddy in South Africa has 14% of the market and there are a handful of smaller companies producing more specialised units.

The overall trend of shippers outsourcing logistics to operators and therefore having smaller fleets of their own continues. Shipper fleets are estimated to have stayed at 47,400, the same as the 2013 figure. In contrast the total size of the operator fleet has grown from 228,460 to 329,080 between those two years – an impressive increase of 44%.

The survey exists to fill the hole created by the absence of a global register of tank containers. Data is collected by systematically asking tank owners and operators to provide fleet numbers and manufacturers for information about new production.  Leased fleet numbers are not included in the total figure, except for those thought to be idle. Leased tanks are thought to be split 65% to operators and 35% to shippers and other users. Further information about the methodology and a full write up of the survey can be found on the ITCO website.

The ITCO survey is published annually with updates throughout the year. It is dependent on thorough and honest reporting from participants and, as it provides such a useful snapshot of our industry, we would encourage all our readers to get involved.