Global tank container fleet reaches 848,400 units, growing 5.81%

The International Tank Container Organisation (ITCO) last week published its 2024 Global Tank Container Fleet Survey.

The tank container industry has grown significantly in recent years, driven by increasing global demand for bulk liquid and liquified gas transport, the recognition of the tank container as a safe, flexible and efficient mode of transport; and, during the 2020-2022 Covid-19 period, by disruptions in the logistics supply chain.

However, with supply chains returning to normality last year – and volumes of bulk liquids suitable for tank container transport not increasing – there was a slowdown in the rate of growth in 2023.

According to this year’s ITCO Survey of the Global Tank Container Market, some 46,600 tank containers were added to the global tank container fleet in 2023, compared to 67,865 in the previous year.

Growth of 5.81%

This year’s Survey estimates that, on 1 January 2024, the global tank container fleet stood at 848,400 units, compared to 801,800 tanks on 1 January 2023 – a growth of 5.81%.

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruption led to a tendency by chemical companies to overstock and use the tank container as a storage unit. This resulted in an increased demand for tank containers – and, in turn, a demand by both operators and BCOs for tank equipment.

With the general trend by chemical companies to “de-stock”, 2023 saw a decrease in the number of tank containers being held on demurrage – indications at one time were that up to 15% of the global operators fleet was on demurrage. With the de-stocking, equipment was returned to operators (and, when leased equipment), back to leasing companies.

The net result has seen a reduction in tank container utilisation by both operators and leasing companies – and more equipment standing “idle”. Although tank container manufacturers have maintained reasonably high production figures, the rate of growth of new tanks entering the market has decreased – while depots have experienced a huge demand for storage at their facilities.

With large numbers of tank containers – which over the last two years were being held on demurrage by chemical companies on a “just-in-case” basis – now being returned empty to operators, pressure is being put on put on operators and leasing companies to maximise utilisation, and depots to find storage space.

Impact of vessel rerouting

At the time of publishing this Report, it is apparent that the impact of the Red Sea crisis is less severe than COVID-19, although the TEU-mile boost (the additional miles required by vessels to go via the Cape of Good Hope) has been significant. Clarksons’ February 2024 Container Intelligence Monthly stated that compared with December 2023, TEU miles have gone up by around 11%, as around 620 ships of 8.5 million TEU are rerouting from the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope to avoid attacks from Houthi rebels.

Despite the slow-down in the growth of the industry, the massive disruption and challenges in the supply chain over the past three years have proved that the tank container can play a critical role in the “just-in-time” business philosophy of the major end users – the shippers. The industry continues to be dominated on a global level by a relatively small number of major tank container operators and leasing companies.

Top 10 companies

The top 10 tank container operators account for over 297,000 tanks, representing over 50% of the global tank container operators’ fleet. The top 10 leasing companies account for 317,740 tanks, representing about 85% of the total leasing fleet.

As in previous years, this Survey lists those companies which are operating or leasing tank container fleets of over 1000 units. Companies with tank container fleets of less than 1000 units, (about 200 companies) have not been named individually, but an “educated estimate” has been made for the combined fleets.



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