Figures published in ITCO’s latest Tank Container Fleet Survey show that the global tank container industry grew by 8.5% in 2016 and the overall fleet figure has now passed the half million mark – having reached approximately 508,000 units.
This steady growth took place across the board with 44,450 tank container units manufactured last year, compared with 43,780 in 2015 (though still down on 2014, when 48,200 were made).
In the list of the top ten operators, Eagletainer Logistics replaced Interflow in 10th place, but apart from that the list remained the same as last year. The top ten operators represent about 51% of the global operators fleet, down slightly on 54% the previous year.
That trend is now well-established and is likely to continue
Among lessors, the largest companies are even more dominant. The Top Ten stayed the same this year and account for 86% of the total leasing fleet with the top three (EXSIF Worldwide, Seaco Global and Eurotainer SA) accounting for 59% on their own.
In tank container production, the top five remains the same – CIMC, NT Tank, Welfit Oddy, Singamas and CXIC, with the main development this year being NT Tank moving from number four to number two on the list. These five account for 91% of the market, though CIMC remains way in front with a 49% share of production, having made 2,000 more tank containers last year compared with 2015. The report refers to a “very active and growing specialised tank sector” which hints at the innovation taking place in the industry and which, as times get tougher, we need to see more of.
That growth in specialised leasing is shown by the rapid increase in the fleet size of new player Caru Specialised Leasing, whose fleet has increased from 100 in 2016 to 2,400 in the 2017 survey. Another new player, Gem Containers, went up from 150 in 2016 to 1,000 this year. Other leasing companies showing impressive growth include Raffles Lease (up from 7,000 to 8,400), TWS Tankcontainer (up from 5,890 to 7,500) and Eurotainer, which increased its market share from 15% to 19%.
For operators, the headline figure went up from 329,080 to 342,500. That came on the back of some of the key players across the world consolidating their fleets. Businesses such as M&S Logistics, and Suttons International in the UK, Newport in the Netherlands, Hoyer Group in Germany, VTG Tanktainer in Germany, the USA’s Intermodal Tank Transport and China Railway all kept their fleets at the same level – no mean feat in the current global climate.
Overall the growth figure of 8.5% is up on 2016 (7.16%) but down on the era or rapid growth of 2014 and 2015, which saw growth rates or 14% and 11% respectively.
This year the survey was produced by the Shanghai Maritime University and overseen by Professor Song Bingliang. The survey is designed to stays consistent from year to year, with the balance of on lease tanks estimated to be leased to operators (65%) and the rest to shippers and other tank users (35%). However, this year due to the economic conditions the figure for idle tanks has been estimated to be 12-15% of the leased fleet, up from 10% the previous year.
Despite these minor changes, the methodology has remained consistent. Tanks below 20ft in length are not included. Where firm data is not provided the survey gives estimates using internet research and consultation with experienced industry representatives. Estimating the number of shipper-owned tank containers is particularly difficult. The survey authors stress that the figures are not accurate to an exact number. The survey is designed to provide a snapshot and reveal trends, which it does very effectively, and credit should go to the authors and to ITCO, the survey sponsor.
“Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything,” as the great American writer Gregg Easterbrook once wrote. What do this year’s numbers reveal beyond the headline growth figure? Overall, the growth in the industry is still being driven out of Asia, despite pockets of growth elsewhere. That trend is now well-established and is likely to continue. Elsewhere, we are seeing a steady rise in more innovative and specialised leasing companies and manufacturers. That is only just starting to show through in the figures. We can expect to see more in subsequent years. We hope that commitment to innovation will ensure that the tank container industry keeps on going, like that children’s toy that refuses to quit.