MPC Container Ships (MPCC) has fixed a traditional panamax for higher than last done.
That suggests the container charter market may be bottoming out, or the decline is at least slowing, chief executive Constantin Baack said.
The Oslo-listed company has fixed the 4,256-teu AS Emma (built 2010) with Singapore-based operator SeaLead for six to eight months at $31,000 per day.
That signals a rise in the market, although brokers believe the deal is an all-in rate that includes a scrubber premium of $5,000 per day.
The AS Emma is one of five vessels booked out by MPCC in the third quarter of the year.
Recent fixtures mostly show a huge drop in rate levels and period durations.
Since October, average container ship periods have shortened to seven months and average rates are $24,104 per day.
That is down from 17 months and $35,518 per day from February 2020 to September 2022, according to Clarksons Research.
But period and charter rates remain well above levels from 2017 to 2020, when rates averaged $9,339 per day and charters averaged six months.
MPCC’s recent fixtures are still much higher than that.
The gearless 1,440-teu AS Rafaela (built 2007) was fixed last week for two to four months at $14,000 per day to intra-Asian container specialist SITC.
Other deals like the AS Emma show that “the market is not as bad as the perception out there suggests”, Baack told an earnings call on Thursday.
“It is certainly too early to derive a generally positive shift in the market.
“But it is a data point that clearly suggests a slowdown of the market softening, if not possibly a bottoming out of rates. So overall the charter market is still in pretty good shape.”
He said the company would continue to sell vessels if accretive opportunities arose.
The 966-teu AS Laetitia (built 2007) and 1,713-teu AS Serafina (built 2010) were offloaded in the third quarter for a combined total of more than $50m and a profit of $30.4m.
“The market is moving quickly but we are looking at selling rather than buying and will consider further vessel sales,” Baack said.
MPCC owns and operates 63 container vessels, of which 58 are wholly owned and five are owned 50% through a joint venture.
The fleet benefited from higher time charter rates of $30,476 per day in the third quarter, up from $19,007 per day a year earlier.