Liners turn to multipurpose tonnage to plug gaps in charter market

Liners are having to seek out multipurpose (MPP) ships to cope with extraordinary demand and sky high rates across container shipping tradelanes.

“The dearth of cellular container tonnage in the charter market is forcing some carriers to tap into the multipurpose market to cover their needs, targeting ships with good speeds and high container intakes,” Alphaliner noted in its most recent weekly report.

Charter rates for box tonnage have leapt in the past few months and available tonnage has become very tight.

Broker Braemar ACM’s containership time charter BOXi index stands at 118.64 points, more than twice as high as year-low figures near the start of 2020 with rates continuing to firm across the board.

“It is now becoming the norm for owners to demand periods in excess of 12 months in all sectors,” Braemar ACM pointed out in a recent report.

Faced with limited options, liners are now turning to MPP options.

South Korea’s HMM, for instance, has fixed the MPV Thalia, a 30,000 dwt MPP, capable of carrying 1,888 teu for up to six months, according to Alphaliner. The Korean operator is also about to deploy a sister ship onto its liner network, while Indonesia’s Samudera has taken the MPV Clio on a medium-term charter starting next month.

Other MPP owners are offering their ships to containerlines for hire amid an almost unprecedented supply chain crunch for the liner industry, which is enjoying high freight rates while battling severe equipment shortages brought about by strong demand, led by the United States.

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.


  1. I wonder if the container guys realise the stability and deck height limitations of MPVs when used for pure container operations?
    Even if they are going to do pure empty container feedering, they will run up against hicube stack height limits (especially underdeck) and they also need to check that those ‘150 reefer plugs’ are actually working (plus the need to provide own shipkits, splitters and extension cables).
    All is not what it seems on the vessel description until you actually start planning a load because few of the MPVs have really carried many containers previously.

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