Weak demand for container vessels and financial loss could force Japanese carrier NYK to halve its fleet of container ships by 2013, reports say.

The line, which operates 120 container vessels, is planning to take out 60 ships by scrapping or selling some of its group-owned ships and returning many of those on charter.

Shipments to developing countries such as China had boosted the company to expand its fleet in the last decade but demand collapsed in the last year’s global economic downturn, according to vietnamshippinggazette.com.

In 2008 the company earned $6.5bn, around 25% of its sales, from container shipping services.

NYK Lines posted a $280m pretax loss in the last fiscal year due to the maintenance of ships and falling shipping rates.