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Containership owner Seaspan Corporation has bought the 89% of shares it did not own in shipbuilder vehicle Greater China Intermodal Investments (GCI).

And it paid a significantly discounted price following a collapse in ship asset values.

It means Seaspan has acquired 16 vessels of 10,000-14,080 teu and two 10,000 teu ships under construction for $1.6bn, including $1bn of debt and $140m of future vessel payments.

According to Seaspan chairman David Sokol: “The asking price for these assets two years ago was about $2.6bn.”

He added: “Why now? Because we can.”

It was also announced that shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings was to invest a further $250m in Seaspan, following its earlier investment of $250m.

GCI was formed in 2011 as a joint-venture involving private equity firm Carlyle Group and other investors as a vehicle to finance the construction of containerships, with Seaspan investing $100m for an 11% stake.

The vessels were managed by Seaspan, but GCI got badly stung by the collapse of Hanjin Shipping and a subsequent slump in vessel values. At the time, August 2016, GCI had four 10,100 teu ships on long-term fixed-rate charter with the South Korean carrier.

Seaspan also had three vessels on long-term charter to Hanjin and like its affiliate suffered substantial losses from unpaid charter hire, charter party default and finding new charters during a market downturn.

The acquisition of GCI will see Seaspan’s fleet swell to 112 vessels, ranging in size from 3,500 to 14,080 teu, with all but the two GCI newbuilds having charter parties attached.

Meanwhile, the outlook for the containership charter market is, according to Alphaliner, “appearing stronger than it has been for many years”.

The consultant said certain sized vessels becoming open in the next few weeks were “attracting considerable interest from carriers, a sign that the current demand is robust”.

It said that with the strong demand and low availability of tonnage across the board – the idle tonnage fleet is at a record low – daily hire rates were “finally taking off”.

Even beleaguered panamax containerships are seeing rates jump, with a 4,250 teu vessel now commanding over $10,000 a day – double the rate of a year ago.

Moreover, shipowners are again able to dictate terms, which includes positioning costs and time charter duration.

One London broker told The Loadstar this week his owners were instructing him not to fix long-term, as they expected the market to continue to improve after April in the build-up to the peak season.

Speaking during Seaspan’s conference call presentation, chief commercial and technical director Peter Curtis said that, in his opinion, the market was at the “inflexion point” with supply and demand, and that the growth in global trade “is real”.

Bing Chen, president and chief executive, agreed that the containership charter market was in full recovery mode, adding that for certain size ships, “rates have doubled in the last couple of months”.

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