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Weekly Broker: Red-hot feeder boxship charter market spurs buying spree

The red-hot charter market for feeder boxships is seeing a number of box operators scramble to buy up tonnage as charter options dry up.

The 1,500-1,900 teu segment is sold out on the charter market, with the only vessel available in Asia having now secured a fresh charter, according to box watchers Alphaliner.

“With only a moderate amount of ships expected to come open in the next few weeks, this segment should continue to enjoy rising charter rates that will benefit all vessel types, and not only the higher-specification units, as has been mainly the case so far,” Alphaliner noted in its most recent weekly report. Illustrating this, the conventional Aker CS 1700 type is now getting fixed at $10,000 per day in Asia, a new high for this series of ships. Likewise, B-170s are enjoying rising rates with one vessel fixing at low $9,000 for Middle East to the Indian Ocean trading, versus $8,650 for the last fixture of a sister vessel in the area. Charter rates for high-specifications units continue to increase with Bangkok Max CV Neptun 1700 tonnage now being fixed at over $13,000 per day, versus $12,000 until recently.

All this charter news has inevitably seen a rush to buy up ships. Both Braemar ACM Shipbroking and Intermodal reported a deal in which fast growing boxship operator MPC Container Ships acquired the 2010-built SFL Avon from Ship Finance International. The 1,740 teu vessel has fetched a price of $12.55m. MPC Container Ships added two 2010-built 3,414 teu boxships – Frisia Bruessel and Centaurus -last week.

According to reports from multiple shipbroking houses including Intermodal and Advanced Shipping & Trading, Singapore’s Seacon Shipping acquired the 2007-built boxship Hermann Hesse from German owner Norddeutsche Reederei for a price of $9.5m.

Additionally, Braemar ACM Shipbroking reported that the 2004-built Hansa Ronneburg sparked a bidding war between two liner companies which pushed the price up as high as $8.45m. The solid price indicating how few vessels there are in the market and gives a feeling for where liner companies see charter rates for smaller tonnage going in coming months.

“[S]entiment remains extremely positive. With the charter market continuing to strengthen, it will be interesting to see whether this prompts more owners to scout the S&P market to ascertain if they can achieve strong numbers,” Braemar ACM Shipbroking said in its weekly report.

Interest for secondhand bulkers, meanwhile, continues to stay firm in the past week, with supramaxes being the favourite ship type among buyers.

“On the dry bulk side, buying appetite seems to have followed through into this week, though with a lack of reflection of this being seen in terms of number of vessels changing hands. Buying interest seems to be relatively high right now, providing the backdrop for a firming up in price levels to take place. Things have become slightly murky in this regard on the older tonnage front, with rumours of a change in the age limit imposed on Chinese buyers likely to cause a price step,” Allied Shipbroking said in its weekly report.

Several shipbrokers including Intermodal, Allied Shipbroking, Optima and Andreas J. Zachariassen all reported an en bloc sale of two 2008-built supramax bulkers Serpentine and Saturnus. Norwegian owner Lighthouse Shipholding has taken over the two vessels from compatriot company Seven Seas Carriers for $23.5m in total and renamed them Bering Light and Orient Light. The latest acquisitions will add to the company’s fleet to nine bulkers.

More than five shipbrokers reported that China Mingsheng Trust has sold two 2010-built supramaxes EM Amber and EM Coral en bloc to an undisclosed buyer for $24m in total.

Additionally, shipbrokers also listed the sale of 2001-built supramax Navios Herakles. The 52,061dwt vessel is said to have been sold to a Chinese buyer for a price of $8.1m.

“On the tanker side, we continued to see relatively few vessels changing hands again this week. Despite many pointing out the tanker market as one with great opportunities, it seems as though few buyers are willing to bite at the moment. Given the disconnect we have seen between asset price and freight market trends, such a sale will prove hard to make, while we will need to see much improved market fundamentals before any “rush” takes place,” Allied Shipbroking said.

Multiple shipbroking houses listed the sale deal of 2008-built chemical tanker Zhong Ji No.1. Allied Shipbroking identified Singapore’s Wilmar Ship Holdings as the buyer of the 45,719dwt vessel. Wilmar has taken over the vessel from Chinese owner Zhong Ji International Shipping for a price of $10.9m.

Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.
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