Ignazio Messina of Italy is purchasing a brace of midsize boxships to replace two conro vessels it is selling.

The Genoa-based liner operator is splashing out more than $50m to purchase the 4,600-teu Northern Promotion (built 2010) and Northern Priority (built 2009) for its growing container shipping operation.

Brokers believe the family-run company is paying around $28m per ship, which Messina will use for services to the Middle East Gulf and India.

At the same time, Messina is selling two conros to buyers in the US.

The 2,920-teu Jolly Quarzo (built 2013) is believed to be sold to US carrier Liberty Global Logistics for the carriage of military cargo.

That follows the earlier sale this year also to US buyers of the 2,920-teu Jolly Cristallo (built 2012).

Messina did not name the boxships it has purchased, but confirmed a strategy to substitute conros with fully cellular vessels.

That will see the company charter in the 2,546-teu MSC Palatium III (built 2006) for its services to east and southern Africa.

The geared vessel will operate in the services while the two newly acquired boxships undergo work at shipyards.

Messina’s diversification push also sees it invest in a fleet of containers. The company is purchasing 2,000 containers of 20 foot each as well as 2,500 high-cube 40-foot containers from Chinese manufacturers.

The sales of the Northern P-type vessels mark the latest in a string of sales of container ships managed by V.Ships Germany.

These include the 6,750-teu Northern Magnum (built 2003), which the Hamburg-based outfit is said to have sold to MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company.

Messina’s focus on the container sector reflects a trend whereby conro vessels are increasingly rare in deepsea liner services.

Dwindling conro fleet

The company is one of just three with deepsea liner services fully operated with conros, excluding Jones Act outfits, said Alphaliner.

The others are Italian operator Grimaldi Group and Saudi Arabia’s Bahri.

Alphaliner estimates the combined conro deadweight of the three largest carriers represents only 0.5% of the total liner fleet.

It lists the handover to Grimaldi of the 47,528-dwt conro Great Antwerp (built 2023) in April as the first delivery of a ship specifically built to carry a combination of containers and vehicles among other rolling cargo on long-haul routes in six years.

The previous was the 55,649-dwt Atlantic Sun (built 2017).