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Despite a 30% spike in prices for scrap, just 1,300 teu of cellular tonnage was sold for demolition in the past 60 days as operators seek out and deploy every containership that can pass survey.

“The booming container charter market, with historically high charter rates, has been instrumental in keeping owners away from the demolition scene,” said Alphaliner.

Indeed, notwithstanding scrap buyers offering around $600 per ldt – which hard-pressed shipowners would have jumped at a year ago, particularly for their ageing uneconomic vessels – they are now receiving astonishing offers from carriers for their ships, many times higher than they could achieve on the demolition market.

The consultant identified only 15 container vessels, for a total of 12,431 teu, that had been dispatched to the recycling yards in the first six months of the year – this is in stark contrast to the 56 for 143,000 teu scrapped in the first half of 2020.

And Alphaliner added: “The second half of 2021 is expected to see a persistently low number of demolition sales in the face of a continuously strong charter market.”

Some 200,000 teu of container tonnage was scrapped last year, itself just a third of the record demolition sales in the crisis year of 2016, when Hanjin Shipping went bankrupt and liner shipping was brought to its knees.

The containership post-lockdown capacity crunch and subsequent massive freight rate increases has turbo-charged daily hire rates for containerships, which in turn has significantly increased their asset values.

According the Vesselsvalue data, the scrap and market value of a classic panamax ship just six months ago was around $9m. Today’s demolition value has increased to around $12m, while the market value for even an elderly ship has leaped to something north of $50m, and is rising daily.

An S&P broker told The Loadstar recently the current market reminded him of the evacuation of the allied forces from France in World War II.

“It’s just like Dunkirk,” he said, “any ship that can float is being deployed by the carriers at the moment. They [the carriers] are waving blank cheques in the owners’ faces and are not fussy about age or bunker consumption,” he said.

Olivia Watkins, head cargo analyst at Vesselsvalue, explained: “Owners, like MSC, have been buying vessels instead of entering the charter market as it works out more effective. For example, the 2002-built 4,839 teu Mexico sold for $50.5m to MSC at the end of June. The alternative on a five-year charter  could cost up to $70m.”

Another broker told The Loadstar the only thing stopping daily hire rates and asset values climbing even higher was the lack of candidates.

“There is just nothing to charter and nothing to sell at the moment,” he said.

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