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Alibaba-linked carrier pays premium charter for vintage boxship

Age no disadvantage as container lines seek scarce tonnage to meet freight demand

New carrier Transfar Shipping in which China e-commerce giant has stake, takes 20-year-old boxship in six-month deal

AGEING containerships — some over 20 years old — are still fetching premium charter rates and high sale prices in the first weeks of 2022, as record-breaking profits and booming conditions continue.

Greece-based Conbulk Shipping, owners of the 2002-built, 2,496-teu containership Groton (IMO: 9246310), secured a six-to-seven month charter deal of $75,000 daily from Transfar Shipping, according to shipbroker reports.

Transfar is a new ocean carrier in which China’s Aliababa has a share and launched in late 2021.

The vessel is one of many now trading beyond their normal lifespan as the demand for the global fleet of 6,500 containerships continues to outpace demand, pushing charter rates to fresh records.

“There is growing confidence that this market will continue its bull run throughout the year,” shipbroker Clarkson Platou said in its latest weekly report on the boxship sector.

Non-operating shipowners are seeking to lock in profits for as long as possible with a preference for charter deals with carriers of at least three years’ duration. This means shorter contracts are fetching even higher rates despite vessel age.

Although fewer secondhand vessels are up for sale this year, those that are changing hands are also securing sky-high deals four or five times their value two years ago on the back of the charter income that can be generated.

Samudera chartered the 1999-built Bangkok (IMO: 9197349), with 1,620 teu capacity, for a 24-35 month period at $18,000 daily, while Pasha Hawaii Line took the 2003-built, 2,824 teu Carparthia (IMO: 9253038) for three years at $42,000 daily, shipbroker reports said.

Carparthia, owned by the Hamburg-based MPC Group, will generate some $45m in income over that period, more than double the vessel’s scrap value

These economics have made it cheaper to buy a boxship than charter one for the past six months.

Greek shipowner Evangelos Marinakis reportedly sold the 3,630-teu, 2007-built Spirit of Shanghai (IMO: 9362401) and Spirit of Hamburg (IMO: 9391660) for a total $54.5m.

“The market will continue this positive trend for some time to come,” said the Hamburg and Bremen Shipbrokers’ Association in their most recent weekly report that assesses containership chartering rates.

MSC, which surpassed Maersk to become the world’s largest container line earlier this month, has continued its buying spree in 2022.

It paid $50m for the 2006-built Belmonte Express (IMO: 9309289) from UK-based Libra Holdings, the shipowner and management group of Lomar Shipping. The line also bought Cardiff Trader (IMO: 9261815) for $30m, shipbroker reports said.

The line has engaged in a protracted and extensive buying spree over the last 12 months, spending billions to secure scarce tonnage as rising freight volumes to the US, port congestion, pandemic-related manufacturing delays and supply chain logjams extend sailing times and worsen boxship availability.

That’s also prompting regional lines to secure tonnage as three-year charter deals remain inflated. Wan Hai Lines bought three, six-year-old, sub-panamax boxships of 2,782 teu for $48.5m each, shipbrokers reported.

The vessels, Carolina Trader (IMO: 9771652), California Trader (IMO: 9771664) and Delaware Trader (IMO: 9793715) are also owned by Libra Holdings.

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