Deployed solely on the Asia-Europe trades, they account for 36 per cent of capacity on the route, up from 27 per cent a year earlier.
The rising proportion of 8,000-12,000 TEU vessels deployed on the transpacific trades is partly due to the displacement of the 15,000 TEU ships from the Far East-Europe route, as well as to new deployment opportunities on the Asia-US east coast owing to passage via the expanded Panama Canal.
In May, 8,000-12,000 TEU ships accounted for 54 per cent of total capacity deployed on transpacific trade lanes, whereas the 3,000-8,000 TEU sector accounted for 32 per cent, according to research by Clarksons.
"From around mid-2016, the 'cascade' of larger units onto transpacific routes has also been supported by firm trade growth. Enhancements to US east coast port capability to handle larger 'Neo-Panamax' units have been ongoing, supporting cascading of larger ships into the Far East-US east coast route, now including ships of 12,000+ TEU," Clarksons said.
On north-south routes in May, the 8,000-12,000 TEU sector accounted for 32 per cent of deployed capacity, up from 29 per cent a year earlier, while the proportion of 3,000-8,000 TEU capacity dropped from 53 per cent to 49 per cent.
Further down the size hierarchy, deployment of 3,000+ TEU vessels on intra-regional routes has remained relatively steady at 30 per cent, while the intra-Asian trades recorded robust growth throughout 2016 and Q1 2017.
Although there remain some additional opportunities for larger vessels on these routes, these appear to be diminishing over time on the back of port capability limitations, added Clarksons.