Car carriers race to new rate highs

This year has seen record rates for many ship types with containers and LNG grabbing most headlines. Also cruising to new highs are car carriers, with analysis suggesting this niche trade is set for a very solid 2023 too.

The car carrier market went into overdrive in mid-August, after Nissan extended its $100,000 a day rate on the 6,178 ceu Lake Geneva just four weeks into the deal, something VesselsValue analyst Dan Nash has described as: “A record breaking fixture setting a higher high in a raging bull market, paralysed by short PCTC supply following years of underinvestment.”

Sentiment has just turned ultra bullish for rates and values

To put this Lake Geneva fixture into perspective, it is 174% higher than the January index only nine months previously, up a staggering 488% compared to December 2019 based on a one-year 6,500 ceu time charter.

Multiple sources are now reporting that a modern panamax car carrier is about to be fixed out at $120,000 a day.

“In a nutshell, we are witnessing the biggest bull run in the history of the sector, which is showing no obvious signs of easing,” Nash said in a new car carrier report, adding: “Sentiment has just turned ultra bullish for rates and values.”

It’s not only PCTC assets that are riding the wave. Large conros with dedicated car decks and generous high and heavy garage space are being chased by PCTC operators desperate to find more capacity.

While overall global car sales are facing headwinds, demand for electric vehicles are soaring.

VesselsValue is now predicting an average of $125,000 per day for car carriers in 2023, with highs of $150,000 deemed a possibility.

“Another 12 months of gains are almost guaranteed on what is foreseeable,” Nash predicted.

Values for modern eco five-year-old 6,000 to 7,000 ceu units are projecting $100m this quarter, surpassing newbuild prices agreed for dual fuel equivalents ordered at Chinese shipyards just 12 months previous.

“Contango sentiment has entered into the mindset of charterers and shipowners, accelerating modern asset values catching up with earnings growth, almost entirely driven by short supply,” Nash wrote.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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