MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has extended its unrelenting raid on the secondhand container ship market.

The world’s largest liner operator company has acquired five more veteran vessels, including another brace of post-6,000-teu ships from Germany’s NSB Group.

The liner giant is buying the 6,892-teu Buxcoast and Buxcliff (both built 2001) in an en-bloc purchase for $45m, said brokers.

That takes to seven the tally of NSB-managed vessels acquired by MSC this year.

It recently purchased the 6,627-teu Paris II and Lyon II (both built 2001) from NSB in an en-bloc sale for $40m.

Earlier in the year, the company took ownership of the NSB-managed, 6,336-teu MSC Carouge (built 2007), Buxwave (built 2006) and 6,296-teu MSC Lausanne VI (built 2005).

Larger charter market vessels are increasingly finding buyer interest after steep rises in the charter rates over recent weeks, brokers said.

However, MSC has also been active in the sub-panamax sector with acquisitions of three vessels.

It is purchasing the 2,478-teu Maersk Dakar and Maersk Douala (both built 2004) for an undisclosed price from 2M alliance partner AP Moller-Maersk, according to brokers.

In addition, it is reported to be paying about $16m to acquire the 2,800-teu Odysseus (built 2006), managed by Cosmoship of Greece, which took it over in April 2021.

MSC remains far and away the most active buyer in a market in which it has acquired well over 300 container ships since the second half of 2020.

The carrier has continued to buy despite disruption due to the Red Sea crisis, which has spurred the charter market rally, with rates around 40% higher than at the beginning of the year.

The most dramatic rises have been in the larger container shipping segments, where fixtures of two years have become rare and vessels are being sought for the end of the year, say brokers.

That has resulted in fixtures such as the 6,612-teu Eastern Pacific Shipping-controlled Tokyo Bay (built 2013), reported taken recently by Hong Kong-based OOCL for 36 months at around $40,000 per day.

There are signs, however, that operators are becoming more cautious as freight rates have fallen.

An MSC vessel in the Port of Felixstowe. Photo: Port of Felixstowe

The benchmark Freightos Baltic Index was trading at $2,682 per 40-foot-equivalent unit on 28 March, down from $3,364 on 14 February.

Therefore, some operators are unwilling to commit to longer charters and are paying premiums for shorter ones.

That is reflected in the fixture of the 4,600-teu Zhong Gu Shen Yang (built 2023) for six to eight months at $30,000 per day.

The vessel has been chartered by Dubai-based Global Feeder Shipping — a container ship company majority-owned by state-owned port operator Abu Dhabi Ports.

Greek-managed Euroseas has reportedly fixed the 4,250-teu Synergy Antwerp (built 2008) at $26,500 per day with Hapag-Lloyd for 11 to 14 months.

Brokers report that the owner had initially sought a longer charter.