D r e w r y Report R e v i e w s C a r - C a r r y i n g Fleet

A sector of the shipping industry which has been experiencing buoyant conditions recently is that concerned with the transport of assembled (or built-up) motor vehicles — principally passenger cars, but also trucks and other commercial vehicles shipped by sea. Over the past two to three years, the car-carrying fleet, which is a sizable one, has been fully employed, owners enjoying profitable freight rates. Yet world vehicle production and trade went into decline with the "Oil Crisis" and the onset of the economic slump, and have yet to recover to 1973 levels, as the latest study from H.P. Drewry (Shipping Consultants) Limited reveals.

Car-carrying capacity—which, in standard vehicle units is over 700,000 cars—was stretched by the extension of vehicle trade to newer markets and a general lengthening of transport distances.

The most important single factor was the growth of Japanese exports, notably to Western Europe and the U.S., but also to most other markets. Passenger car shipments alone rose from 1.4 million units in 1974 to 1.8 million in 1975 and some 2.4 million in 1976, and are still growing.

With the shift away from the North American market, firstly toward Western Europe and then to newer markets in Asia and Africa, the extension of world car trade has precipitated a large increase in the capacity of the car-carrying fleet. The Drewry study, entitled "The Growth of the Car-Carrying Fleet," reveals that there are over 350 ships in service which have been specially built, or converted, for the purpose of transporting complete assembled passenger cars and other vehicles on the longer ocean routes, and full details of the fleet are given in an appendix to the study, which lists car carriers with a capacity of 1,000 or more vehicles. In addition, there are many other smaller vessels, mainly specialized, operating on shortsea routes, or in coastal services, carrying cars.

A variety of ship types — including hybrid, or "Combo" car carriers—are actually utilized for car transport, and these are described in the study, issued as No. 52 in a series. The greater part of the deepsea fleet, however, comprises two distinct types.

These are, respectively, car/bulk carriers fitted with portable decks and the fixed-deck car transporter (referred to in the Drewry study as pure car carriers, or "PCC's").

Each sector of the fleet is reviewed in Part 2, commencing with short-sea types and ending with an assessment of the role of multipurpose cargo ships. The structure of the world fleet is fully analyzed in the study, in order to show its capacity, what sizes of ship are in operation, how old they are, and by whom they are owned or operated.

Extensive reference is also made, within the study, to the deployment of the deepsea fleet by type and how the available capacity represented by the different sections of the fleet has been utilized — particularly the changing role of the PCC, which employs roll-on/roll-off handling rather than the lift-on/lift-off methods used by car-bulk carrier operators.

The past growth of the fleet was supported by the extension of sea trade in built-up, fully assembled cars, and the 74-page study concludes with an extensive review of long-term trends in world car-production and trade, in order to assess the prospects for the fleet. Particular emphasis is placed on the North American market and sales of imported cars, and also on the ability of the Japanese car industry to increase export sales to this and other world markets. On the basis of visible trends within the industry — particularly increased local assembly—one conclusion is that the existing fleet, plus ships on order, will probably be adequate to meet the forecast increase in trade in built-up passenger cars, although much will depend on the shipment of vehicles in knockdown form.

"The Growth of the Car-Carrying Fleet," No. 52 in a series of reports on various aspects of shipping prepared by the Research Division of H.P. Drewry (Shipping Consultants) Limited, 34, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1Y 2LL, England, is available at a single copy rate of $75 (all overseas orders), or on a subscription basis $275 (all overseas orders), for the series 51-60.

Other stories from May 1977 issue


Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.