A double container ship sale involving Gianluigi Aponte is being closely watched amid anticipation it will set a new price benchmark.

Kmarin Group is set to sell two panamax boxsips to Aponte’s MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company in the first deal involving such vessels in the current bull market.

The deal in question would take the South Korean company out of container vessel ownership and continue an acquisitive period for MSC.

Brokers point to the 4,582-teu Kmarin Atlantica and Kmarin Azur (both built 2013) as the vessels being marketed for sale.

Talk in the market is of Aponte paying up to $53m each for the ships, sale-and-purchase sources told TradeWinds, with MSC in pole position to buy.

If confirmed, that would mark a 60% rise in value in just six months.

The vessels are the last two boxships in the fleet of the South Korean shipowner and manager, also known as Kukje Maritime Investment Corp.

Both ships are currently on charter to AP Moller-Maersk, which also operates the third sister ship, the Maersk Rubicon (built 2013).

The latter vessel, the former Kmarin Aqua, was sold about five years ago to CMB Financial Leasing when a price of sub-$20m was under discussion.

The value of the two vessels has since climbed to about $33m as the attacks on the Red Sea began in December, according to VesselsValue estimates.

Kmarin took over the Kmarin Azur and Kmarin Atlantica in 2017 after the insolvency of Hanjin. They were originally chartered to Hanjin for seven years.

Clarksons Shipping Intelligence Network lists Kmarin also in control of four VLCCs, nine aframax tankers, three bulkers, one LNG carrier and two container ships.

Kmarin, which TradeWinds attempted to contact, appears to be taking advantage of a sharp rise in values to exit the container shipping sector.

The value of a five-year-old, 4,800-teu wide-beam gearless container ship has risen from $45m to $61m, according to Clarkson estimates.

MSC has been on a huge expansion drive that has seen Aponte grab a 20% market share.

MSC’s massive growth means it will be able to operate standalone carrier services in a world dominated by liner shipping alliances, Alphaliner has said.