RoRo fleet confidence returns

The backbone of global automotive transport is the RORO pure car carrier (PCC) or pure car/truck carrier (PCTC), with the largest capable of carrying over 8,000 cars. In a sign that confidence is returning to the automotive industry, the biggest carriers are investing in their fleets and bringing ships out of layup.

While UK vehicle sales fell by almost a third in 2020 and manufacturing has been significantly reduced in lockdown, including 1m fewer units being produced due to bottlenecks in the supply of semiconductors, there is confidence in the industry around electrified vehicles and that 2021 will be a year of recovery.

In the US car sales are down an estimated 5.7% on 2020, due largely to corporate customers, but retail demand is strong, with cars selling faster than the last five years.

Globally analysts are optimistic, anticipating an 8% year-on-year rise in sales in 2021, kick-started by China, with the industry on track to overtake 2019 levels by the end of 2023.

Echoing this optimism, RoRo carriers are reinvigorating a global fleet that had been reduced by over 200 vessels, during the worst pandemic-driven declines in volume.

Italy’s Grimaldi and Norwegian United European Car Carriers (UECC) are investing in their ro/ro fleets, while Sweden’s Wallenius Wilhelmsen (WW) is returning idled ships, to avoid renewing charters at rising rates.

Metro has specialised in the movement of rolling construction equipment and automotive vehicles for the last 40 years with some of the most experienced and established platforms in the industry. We leverage experience, relationships and market position to provide reliable and consistent solutions that deliver cost advantage to our customers, with global specialist teams coordinating the end to end movement of vehicles and machinery around Europe and the globe.

While many ro/ro carriers have been hesitant to order new ships, owing to uncertain demand and stricter emissions standards that could render a ship obsolete before it is even delivered, Grimaldi has ordered six container ro-ro (conro) capable of transporting 2,500 cars or 4,700 linear metres of rolling freight, as well as 2,000 teu, to be delivered by the end of 2024.

Grimaldi will also receive another 12 other ships by 2024, including 10 pure car and truck carriers (PCTC) and nine “eco-class” ro/ro ships remaining.

Norwegian ro/ro carrier UECC has three liquefied natural gas/battery hybrid-powered PCTCs under construction, while Norway-based Wallenius Wilhelmsen is reactivating a further three ro/ro vessels, bringing the number of ships it is reactivating to 12, leaving just four idled.

Reactivating a ship can cost as much as $1 million. WW said it would consider reactivating the remaining four idled ships in the first half of this year as scarcity of capacity and rising rates in the charter market continue to make reactivation of vessels a more cost-competitive option.

While it remains challenging to predict the potential market impact from virus intensity in parts of the world, Wallenius Wilhelmsen expect the overall industry supply-demand balance to improve in the mid-term.

Metro has long-standing partnerships and agreements with the leading RoRo carriers and container shipping lines to offer the automotive industry the widest choice of services, routes and solutions

For further information please contact Tom Fernihough, our Automotive Director, for the latest advice and market new relating to the global supply chain of finished vehicles.