The objective of this research is to examine the economic viability of operating a fast containership in short sea services in North-East Asia. The maritime advanced countries have already been developing a fast containership with the operating speed of more than 50knots. Some countries have constructed a test ship and recently conducted a test of operating a fast containership. In Korea the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF) and a research institute have launched a research on the development of a fast containership with the speed of 30knots and in future such vessel is expected to be operated in short sea services.
Although there are extensive studies on the development of a fast ship design and construction, there is a lack of study on economic evaluation of operating a fast ship. Accordingly, this research attempts to evaluate the economic viability of operating a fast containership being developed compared to the existing vessels operating in short sea services in North-East Asia. In addition, this research analyzes a freight level and transport service of maritime transport of a fast container ship in comparison with air transport.
For the evaluation of economic viability of operating a fast containership, three types of containerships have been chosen. They are 700TEU, 340TEU, and 320TEU containerships. The sizes of vessels, 700TEU and 340TEU containerships are an average size of full containerships in each size range which are now being operated in North-East Asia trade routes. The size of a fast containership is 320TEU which is now being developed in Korea.
The research method used for this research is Break-even point analysis. The fixed and variable costs of 700TEU and 340TEU vessels were collected from actual costs of the vessels respectively. And for a fast containership, the costs were collected based on the containership of 320TEU being under developed. To analyse the economic viability of operating vessels sensitive analysis in terms of freight rates and fuel costs has been conducted.
According to the results of the analysis, operating a fast containership of 320TEU was economically viable only at higher freight level than those of 700TEU and 340TEU vessels. At the average market freight rates operating a fast containership is not economical and has a loss of $92/TEU. The break-even point of the vessel is 648TEU per voyage. This indicates that although a fast containership has competitive advantages in terms of the number of annual voyages and the number of TEU to be carried per year, it has disadvantages in terms of a ship price and fuel costs over 700TEU and 340TEU vessels.
The results of sensitive analysis in terms of freight levels show that when a market rate is $200/TEU, all types of vessels hardly seem to be economically viable. If the market rate is $550/TEU, all of them are economically viable. In particular, 320TEU of a fast ship will gain earnings of $20 per TEU before interest and tax. And break-even TEUs are 490TEU. In addition, it is identified that appropriate freight level of a fast containership based on a basic model is about $530 per TEU.
The results of sensitive analysis in terms of fuel costs show that when daily fuel costs of a fast containership is seven times than that of general containerships, 320TEU of a fast ship will earn a net profit of $8,537 annually and break-even container numbers are 511TEU.
In the meantime, it is found that transporting cargoes by a fast containership is much competitive over air transport in terms of both freight rates and service time given trade routes.
This research has several limitations and much work should be done. This research assumed that three types of vessels examined are being operated on a particular trade routes in North-East Asia. So further research is necessary examining the economic viability of operating vessels on many different trade routes and number of calling ports. In addition, as maritime transport is only a part of transport systems. the economic viability analysis should be done in comparison with a different mode of transport such as air transport, ferry vessels and rail transport.