© Sheila Fitzgerald

MSC is continuing its strategy of hoovering-up container tonnage on the second-hand market, acquiring more ships in the past week, some to remain on charter to other carriers.

Despite having the largest orderbook of any carrier, of some 800,000 teu, with deliveries stemmed from 2022 onwards, MSC is still on the hunt.

The new additions to MSC’s fast-expanding fleet take the number of containerships purchased since last August to more than 70 for a capacity of around 300,000 teu.

According to one S&P broker, the carrier’s appetite for second-hand ships is “insatiable”.

He added: “They have everybody on the lookout for tonnage, and brokers are tapping as many owners as they can find to express an interest, without a big list of questions being asked, other than trading history and surveys etc being up to date.

“It’s usual for purchasers to conduct lengthy onboard inspections when making an offer, but travel restrictions and this absolutely crazy market has totally changed the S&P sector,” he added.

Among the latest batch of MSC purchases is the 4,939 teu Mexico, which has seen its value more than treble since March, with the 19-year-old panamax now worth $37m, according to VesselsValue data. However, The Loadstar sources are saying MSC paid a whopping $50m, more than 33% above that.

Just a year ago, a ship of its size and age would have been lucky to achieve $6m for scrap – further evidence of how the market has swung dramatically since the start of the pandemic.

London-based shipbroker Braemar ACM said the purchase of the Mexico was particularly “eye-catching”, as the ship, currently on charter to <SC’s 2M alliance partner Maersk, was sold on the basis of a forward delivery next April, following dry-docking for special survey.

“It is difficult to reach any other conclusion other than this being testament to MSC’s belief that the market will continue to run well into 2022,” said Braemar.

But its policy is in total contrast to Maersk, which, one broker told The Loadstar, was “sitting on its hands” when it came to the second-hand market.

As a shipowner with a growing fleet, MSC will be negotiating extensions and new charters with rival carriers and feeder operators on ships it does not require, including those on hire to its 2M partner.

With a dearth of tonnage on the S&P market, Braemar said it was also continuing to see tonnage coming out of the Chinese domestic trade – ships seldom shown on the wider S&P market – “to court interest from international buyers at many multiples of what the current owners paid for them”, it said.

Notwithstanding the red-hot activity on the S&P market, Asian shipyards have garnered formidable newbuild orderbooks including today’s announcement that Wan Hai has ordered more vessels from Japan and confirmation of The Loadstar’s story on a dozen 13,000 teu ships for HMM on 2 June. The volume of orders means there is a possibility that delivery dates could be subject to some slippage.

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