Charter rates for big boxships have surged by 40% in recent days.

A chartering spree by Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has seen several 8,500-teu vessels taken from the market on period.

The Swiss charterer has taken a handful of vessels for 12 to 24 months in a swoop that has left other charterers of large boxships out in the cold.

The chartering raid has benefited some tonnage providers, including US-based Seamax Capital Management.

The Stamford-based owner had six larger boxships on the spot market early last week, including one which had been idle since early March.

By the weekend, all-but-one of those vessels had been fixed or are on subject with liner operators, said brokers.

Bottoming out

The US-owner has reaped the benefits of a market that is bottoming-out with the fixture of the 8,238-teu Seamax Greenwich (built 2004).

The vessel has been taken by MSC for 12 months at $17,000 per day.

That is a significant rise on the 8,643-teu Seamax Darien (built 2003).

That vessel was taken earlier last week by MSC for a similar period at $14,500 per day.

It compares with earlier June fixtures of similar tonnage at around $12,000 per day.

Furthermore, MSC is taking one vessel at low rate for a rare long-term charter.

The longer fixture involves the 8,411-teu Northern Jade (built 2005) for 24 months at $13,000 per day, say brokers.

Speedy turnaround

The fixtures raise hopes of a speedy turnaround in a market which has been bereft of any activity since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

MSC was among the first of the main liner operators to step back into the market in early June when it took the 8,400-teu ER Texas (built 2006) for 12 to 14 months at $12,400 per day.

It had to pay more for the Seamax vessels last week as these were the only ships of this size left in the spot market, said brokers.

Seamax, which has 12 vessels of this size in its fleet, is understood to have just one vessel open for spot, the 7,800-teu Seamax Norwalk (built 2005).

Managing partner Cao Deambrosio declined to comment on specific charters, but confirmed that some charters had been recently concluded at stronger levels.

The speed of the recovery has surprised some charterers which appear to have missed the chance of taking large vessels at bargain basement rates.

But rates for big boxships have a long way to climb before reach their pre-Covid highs of around $30,000 per day.

Owners hope that the renewed interest for larger boxships may begin to impact on smaller vessels.

That remains uncertain, but the rise has at least thwarted a 12-week slump in charter rates.