The e-commerce surge sparked by coronavirus lockdowns has affected nearly every corner of the logistics world, playing havoc with everything from warehouse space to trucking capacity and aircargo rates. But now the pandemic's ripple effect is reaching an unexpected, and often invisible, part of the business—the underside of containerships.
In order to meet the surging demand for container shipments, liner operators are increasingly postponing their dry-dock appointments, when ships are periodically hauled out of the water for maintenance and repair. That means those ships will also miss a chance to have their hulls repainted, which could lead to increased fouling by seaweed and barnacles, thus boosting fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to paint supplier Nippon Paint Marine.
"Containership owners want to push dry-docking schedules as much as possible because of the high freight rates and capacity shortage," John Drew, director of Nippon Paint Marine (Europe), said in a release. "Although the ship owner's classification society has the final say in accepting any plans to postpone a five-year dry-docking, we are beginning to see deferments of several months."
The trend has already led to empty slots at Chinese shipyards, Nippon Paint said. But with most marine coating systems designed to last just 60 months, those vessels will have to come in for a cleanup sooner or later. The company is already warning liner operators of potential repair-yard capacity crunches when the market readjusts.