Container ship charter markets have entered the year on a strong footing with rates firming across the board.

Long-term charters remain the order of the day and a dearth of vessels coming open in 2022 is forcing lines to fix several months ahead of delivery in order to secure tonnage.

Liner operators Zim, Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk have been busy locking into a number of high-paying, longer-term periods.

Zim has bagged a number of vessels in the traditional panamax sizes or below.

The Israeli carrier has secured the 4,308-teu Bermuda (built 2010) from Navios Shipmanagement for 46 to 50 months at $42,000 per day, said European brokers. Delivery is slated for between March and April.

The fixtures come as Zim continues to expand its services in Asia using smaller vessels.

On Monday, the carrier announced the launch of a new service linking North China, South Korea and Australia that will deploy seven 1,350-teu vessels.

Zim also has recently fixed a number of smaller vessels for longer periods.

These include the 1,700-teu Ophelia (built 2018), taken for three years at $35,000 per day, and the 966-teu Contship Pep (built 2006), fixed for two years at $22,000 per day.

Hapag-Lloyd snares duo

Lines seeking larger boxships are having to pay increasingly firm rates for vessels that will not be delivered until later this year.

Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd has been linked to a pair of large post-panamaxes as well as the fixtures of four 1,700-teu vessels.

The 4,178-teu Amalthea (built 2009) has been forward fixed to Hapag-Lloyd at a firm rate for five years of $39,000 per day, according to brokers.

Delivery of the Peter Dohle-controlled vessels will be in June and July.

Braemar ACM Shipbroking suggests the rate could prove extremely attractive in the coming weeks as levels could climb further given the extremely tight supply situation in 2022.

Hapag-Lloyd is also understood to have secured the 5,466-teu Wide India (built 2015).

The Danaos Shipping-controlled vessel is reported fixed for three years at $55,000 per day, according to two European brokers.

Delivery of the wide-beam ship is scheduled for October and November this year.

Hapag-Lloyd, led by chief executive Rolf Habben Jansen, is taking more large container ships on period charters. Photo: Hapag-Lloyd

In December, the Hamburg-based company took the 8,845-teu RDO Semarang (built 2007) and 6,541-teu RDO Conception (built 2006) on five-year charters.

Brokers said there are fewer of the high-paying, short-term fixtures that emerged in 2021 involving relatively unknown charterers.

One exception is the 2,496-teu Groton (built 2002), which is reported fixed for six months to Singapore-based Transfar Logistics at $75,000 per day. However, the rate pales with the $140,000 per day that its Greek owner Conbulk Shipmanagement obtained for a short-term fixture in August last year.

Maersk fixes feeder vessels

With few larger boxships available for charter, most activity involves smaller feeder-sized vessels, brokers said.

Danish giant Maersk has fixed the last four boxships belonging to Oslo-based tonnage provider SinOceanic Shipping.

The vessels are the 2,546-teu Sealand Manzanillo, Sealand Los Angeles, Sealand Philadelphia (all built 2008) and Sealand Balboa (built 2009).

The ships have been fixed for a relatively short period of up to 18 months at a strong rate of $45,000 per day, brokers said.