Global Ship Lease Photo: VesselFinder
Photo: VesselFinder

Despite weak fundamentals and uncertainty in liner markets, ocean carriers are still prepared to commit to long-term charters for containerships that become open.

However, the dearth of available uncommitted tonnage is prompting ambitious owners with available funds to consider new ways of increasing their fleets and adding charter hire backlog revenue by way of purchase lease-back agreements.

Non-operating containership owner (NOO) Global Ship Lease (GSL) said yesterday it had agreed to purchase and charter back four 8,500 teu post-panamax ships to “a leading liner operator” ( understood in broker circles to be Maersk) for 24 months, followed by a 12-month extension at the charterer’s option.

The purchase price of the quartet, which have an average age of 20 years, was $123.3m, which compares with the current market value for 8,500 teu ships with a similar age profile of around $40m per unit, according to Vesselsvalue data, with scrap valuations of around $21m a ship.

GSL said the vessels would be expected to generate ebitda of $76.6m over the contracted period, $95.3m if all options were exercised. This would suggest a daily hire rate of some $26,000, considerably below the current market of around $40,000 a day, no doubt an attraction for the shipping line.

GSL said it would take delivery of the vessels this quarter and the third quarter and would rename them GSL Alexandra, GSL Sofia, GSL Lydia and GSL Effie.

“These four high-spec, enhanced efficiency vessels provide GSL with immediate contracted cashflow from a top-tier counterparty and further increase our fleet’s presence in the in-demand post-panamax fleet segment,” said GSL’s chairman, George Youroukos.

He added the deal offered “strong economics, combining predictable contracted cashflows with low residual value risk”.

Prior to this transaction GSL owned 64 container vessels, ranging from 2,207 teu to 11,040 teu, with a total capacity of 341,230 teu, which are chartered to ocean carriers including MSC, CMA CGM, Wan Hai and Zim.

Including all charters agreed up to 1 March, GSL’s contracted revenue backlog at 31 December was $2.5bn, from an average remaining charter party term of 2.7 years.

Elsewhere, Braemar has reported that OOCL beat off rivals to snap up the only available panamax vessel to come onto the market last week, paying $23,000 a day for a period of 23 to 25 months, for the 2009-built 4,255 teu Norfolk.

The shipbroker said that the open tonnage supply for June was “extremely limited”, with many sizes already “sold out”.

The vessel’s owner, Greece-based NOO Costamare, will receive charter hire of some $17m for the Norfolk, compared to its current demolition valuation of around $10m – so, with demand high, there is little incentive for owners to consider recycling ships.

Indeed, Maersk Broker reported a year-to-date count of just 29 vessels, with a capacity of 54,554 teu, sold for demolition, and no new scrapping candidates reported in the past week.

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