Containership charter market shows signs of picking up

AFTER a quite spell at the end of last year, demand for large and very large charter box vessels has perked up with the market registering its first small gains in a long time last week as fixing activity proved surprisingly brisk after the festive season.

The New Contex which tracks spot rate levels for 1,100-4,250 TEU vessels posted a 2 point or 0.7 per cent rise to 293 while the Howe Robinson Containership Index increased by 0.6 per cent – its first rise since July 2016, the IHS Media reported.

“Activity has been reasonable with all things considered,” said one UK-based chartering broker while a German broker said that a renewed push in demolition sales early this year fuelled positive expectations in the charter market.

Demand for large and very large charter container vessels apparently picked up after a very quiet spell at the end of 2016, with Maersk, CMA CGM, and Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) all securing ships with slot intakes in excess of 5,500 TEU for flexible periods. The highest rate in the largest sectors was achieved by the 2015-built 6,882 TEU Cape Chronos in a 50-60 days stint with Emirates Shipping Line at US$8,500 per day, brokers reported.

There was also a high volume of charter transactions in the Panamax sector, albeit mainly for the replacement of redelivered tonnage at established rates in the low $4,000s. It was the 2,000-3,000 TEU sub-Panamax sector that showed the most promising development, as the growing tightness in availability of gearless 2,700-2,800 TEU finally sparked some modest improvements in spot earnings.

At least one ship – the Baltic CS 2700 type Isao (2,742 TEU) – reportedly obtained an increased rate of $6,500 in a 4-month period with Chinese carrier Sinotrans. This is up from $6,000 per day in other recent transactions. A few other comparable vessels are believed to have been fixed at similar levels but still waiting for charterers’ board of directors to lift their subjects and confirm the fixtures. The smallest feeder ship sectors also witnessed a marginal upturn in some cases, including 700 TEU tonnage in the Far East fixed at $4,600 for very short period, which was around $200 above last done.

Tonnage demand apparently perked up in the Caribbean as well where US operator Seaboard fixed the geared 1,118 TEU Hamburg Trader at a reported $6,500 for 9-12 months.