Private shipowners in China have seen a growth opportunity stalled as secondhand vessel prices have started to catch up with booming freight rates.

Sale-and-purchase shipbrokers' anecdotal accounts, as well as statistics, show secondhand sales after March at a near standstill as China's private owners retreat.

Shanghai brokers believe there are still private buyers willing to pay the price for the few veteran ships coming onto the market, but optimistic owners who sealed deals before Chinese New Year in February can now be considered the winners.