'This year saw the departure of the last 4,200- to 5,500-TEU ships from the Asia-Europe routes, following ZIM's decision to withdraw the Asia-Mediterranean ZMP service in March and HMM suspending its Asia-North Europe AEX service in August,' said Alphaliner in its latest weekly report.
'Widely used on the Asia-Europe trades 15 years ago, tonnage of this size class has now been completely displaced by ships that are - most recently - up to four times larger than their predecessors in the mid-2000s.'
In July, MSC deployed the first 23,700-TEU 'megamax-24' vessel on the Asia-Europe trade and a further five units were delivered in the last three months, reported New York's FreightWaves.
'Twenty-four such ships from various carriers will join the world fleet before the end of 2020,' said Alphaliner. 'All these ships are earmarked for the Asia-North Europe trade.'
MSC deployed the first 19,000-TEU megamax units on the Asia-Mediterranean route in March, raising the average vessel size on that trade lane to 12,600 TEU.
'The Asia-North America routes also saw average vessel sizes increase, but this year the pace has been slower, compared to the Asia-Europe trades, as carriers took a more cautious approach in the face of slower demand growth in the US,' said Alphaliner.
The analyst also reported that the number of inactive containerships has risen as carriers plough ahead with their scrubber retrofit programmes to meet the International Maritime Organization's new low sulphur rule deadline of January 2020.
'The inactive containership fleet has risen sharply over the last two weeks to reach 180 units for 753,819 TEU as of September 30, or 3.3 per cent of the total fleet,' said Alphaliner.
The inactive fleet is expected to expand further this month due to the impact of blanked sailings and the continuing stream of ships entering docks for scrubber retrofits. 'Carriers have announced further void sailings in November in response to weak cargo demand, which could see the inactive fleet remaining above 800,000 TEU for most of the fourth quarter,' said the analyst.