Container charter rates are hitting levels not seen since the pandemic with the return of six-digit daily charter rates.

Their return is marked with a 7,000-teu newbuilding fixed for short-term fixture by French liner giant CMA CGM.

The 7,092-teu Kota Callao (built 2024) has been taken for three months at a rate of around $105,000 per day, according to various charter brokers.

It is one of six ships being built in China at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding for Taiwan’s TS Lines.

The vessel will be delivered in the next two weeks and has been fixed before it begins a long-term charter with Singapore’s Pacific International Lines.

The rate is described as a “step back in time to the supercharged pandemic era” by one UK-based broker.

Another said it “reinforces the trend seen in recent weeks where operators are willing to pay significant premiums for short-term charter arrangements”.

Feeder momentum

The willingness of liner operators to pay a premium for short periods has seen rates for feeder vessels pick up too.

Capital Ship Management has fixed the 1,827-teu Adrastos (built 2023) for three months to Tailwind Shipping Lines at $40,000 per day, said brokers.

This represents nearly double the $22,000 per day rate that the sister ship Asterios (built 2023) obtained for a similar period just a month earlier.

Ellerman City Liners was established by UK freight forwarder Uniserve. Photo: PD Ports

Similarly, the 1,380-teu BG Orange (built 2024) is reported fixed by Nordic Hamburg for one to two months with Ellerman City Liners.

The carrier is paying about $35,000 per day, compared with current rates of around $14,000 for longer charters.

The BG Orange will later join North European shortsea specialist BG Freight Line for a long-term charter.

The deals add momentum to a market that has risen steadily for more than five months as a result of the Red Sea crisis.

That is reflected in 23 weeks of consecutive increases in the Howe Robinson Container Index to 1,677 points.

Longer periods

The strength of the market is reflected in periods for all sizes of vessels stretching to two or three years.

In the traditional panamax segment, the benchmark rate has risen to around $30,000 per day for two years — a rate that Greek tonnage provider Danaos Corp secured for the 4,253-teu Seattle C (built 2007), which has been extended by Cosco-affiliate Orient Overseas Container Line.

Some vessels are being forward-fixed with delivery in the first half of 2025.

The 4,241-teu Navios Vermillion (built 2007) has reportedly been taken for 24 months at $29,500 per day, with delivery in January of next year.

This trend has resulted in increased rates and charter periods for smaller vessels as well.

The 3,421-teu GSL Melina (built 2013) has reportedly been chartered to AP Moller-Maersk for two years at around $30,000 per day, amid talk of similar vessels fixing for three years.

Smaller vessels below 2,000 teu are also starting to see the same positive improvements seen in larger sizes, echoing a trend being seen for some time, said brokers.

Greek owner Euroseas fixed the 1,808-teu Stephania K (built 2024) for 24 months with OOCL at $22,000 per day.

That marks a premium of around $4,000 per day compared to 10-year-old vessels.

The charter market is being hauled higher on the back of rising freight rates.

The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index increased by 5% over the week ending 7 June.

This surge has pushed average spot rates above $3,000 per teu, marking a threefold increase since early December 2023, according to Clarksons.