German owner Briese Schiffahrt is poised to add more multipurpose (MPP) vessels to its fleet.

The Leer-based MPP specialist is in talks to acquire another five 12,500-dwt MPP containerships from China’s Taizhou Sanfu Ship Engineering, according to German sources.

The deal is expected to include the 12,100-dwt BBC Louise (built 2018), which remains owned by the yard. It was reportedly sold in April for $18m, which is far higher than VesselsValue's estimate of $13m.

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But sources believe that the Chinese yard could merge the sale of the BBC Louise with the newbuilding order.

Briese has six fuel-efficient MPP vessels on order at Taizhou. The owner, who was unable to be reached for comment, has also been linked to talks with another Chinese yard for four more vessels.

Its interest in the next-generation MPP ships comes as increasing numbers of the F-500 and Great Dane-types are starting to be delivered into the charter market.

Last month, dship Carriers and shipowner HS Schiffahrts took delivery of the 12,325-dwt Mick (built 2019), the first of four MPP vessels under construction for delivery to dship at Taizhou yard.

The ships are equipped with two 250-tonne cranes, giving them greater lifting capacity than older vessels, as well as being more efficient to operate.

Some believe this is enough to render an earlier generation of MPP vessels unfit for purpose.

We’re getting to a stage where these secondhand ships are so different in terms of economy and design, they are not fit for the requirement of the market any more

Toepfer Transport director Hannes Hollander

“We’re getting to a stage where these secondhand ships are so different in terms of economy and design, they are not fit for the requirement of the market any more,” said Toepfer Transport director Hannes Hollander.

'Outdated designs'

The new ships will compete with “outdated” designs such as E/F-types — a 12,000-dwt vessel with combined lifting capacity of 240 tonnes or 360 tonnes — which were delivered from 2004 until 2012.

“These designs are from the 1990s. That’s the sickness of this market,” said Hollander.

The newer designs burn 40% less fuel, have quicker turnaround times in port, fewer operational expenses, and can carry longer cargoes.

Those advantages are reflected in the charter rates, where the older E/F-types vessels earns about $7,500 per day.

This compares with a modern F-500 type which earns $2,500 to $3,000 more. “That’s easily 30% more,” said Hollander.

Toepfer research director Yorck Niclas Prehm believes that if owners begin to order the newer designs in large numbers, it will render the older vessel obsolete. But that is unlikely because freight rates remain too low to sustain newbuilding prices, he says.

Charter rates are still some way below their historical average of between $8,000 and $9,000 per day.

Some owners are putting their faith in older ships acquired cheaply from the secondhand market.

Buyers flushed out

Low prices appear to have flushed out buyers of large and small MPP vessels.

In the larger sizes, Tufton Oceanic Assets recently emerged as the buyer of the 30,000-dwt Zea Jakarta (built 2003) and Rickmers Dalian (built 2004) for $6.5m and $6.65m respectively.

Dutch-owner ARA Shipping paid just $5m to acquire the 9,900-dwt BBC New York (built 2009), which has been renamed ARA Hamburg.

But, barring a few such as Briese, most owners are expected to steer clear of the newbuilding market until the recovery gathers speed.

“We see many people ready to order newbuildings. One day they will have to, but nobody knows when,” said Prehm.