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The embattled liner sector is set to see a record amount of containerships scrapped this year, according to Alphaliner.

It says containership capacity scrapped in the first four months of 2014 reached 212,000-teu, or 27% more than a year ago.

“Although the pace of scrapping is expected to slow down in the next three months due to the traditionally stronger demand in the summer peak shipping season, full year deletions are still on track to reach a new annual record,” Alphaliner said.

It forecasts that total deletions are expected to approach 500,000-teu this year – a level comparable to the 463,000-teu seen in 2013.

“The record scrapping rate is driven by the unprecedented number of deletions of vessels of above 4,000-teu,” Alphaliner said.

Some 34 units of between 4,000 and 5,300-teu are reported to have already been scrapped in the last four months alone, compared to 18 units in the whole of 2013 and 13 units in all previous years before that.

“At least a dozen additional ships of this size are expected to be broken up before the end of this year,” the Paris-based company said.

Alphaliner said the average age of the vessels scrapped this year is also expected to reach an all time low.

“Historically, the average age for containerships scrapping stood at 28 years during the period between 2000 and 2011.

“In 2012, the average age of scrapping fell to 23 years and slipped further to 22 years in 2013.

“Of the 70 vessels scrapped so far this year, their average age has fallen further to 21 years, with the larger vessels of over 4,000-teu being scrapped at an even younger 20 years.”

Alphaliner said the scrapping of under-aged ships of above 4,000-teu has been led by Hanjin Shipping, COSCO and Maersk Line, which accounted for 23 of the 34 units scrapped so far this year.

“Hanjin has already sent nine ships of 4,024-teu and 5,302-teu for scrap this year, with three more units due to follow in the next few months,” it said.

“COSCO has also sent five units of 4,200-teu for scrap, while Maersk had earlier reached an agreement with German owners to return nine 4,200-teu units and five 3,600-teu units some two years before the expiry of their charter contracts, with all 14 units subsequently scrapped.”