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Feeder shipping on a roll as intra-regional traffic grows

SDI Logistics Co.,Ltd | Updated: Feb 01, 2018

HUB-AND-SPOKE shipping has returned with the vengeance in the era of mega ships and higher prices for short-sea tonnage in the charter market, reports IHS Media.

The deployment of larger ships on long-haul routes is developing a demand for feeder vessels, says MPC Container Ships.

MPC Container Ships, which started last April and obtained a full listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange and now leads the pack with a fleet of 41 ships of between 1,000 and 3,000 TEU.

All these were available at bargain prices for a total of US$350 million.

Navios Maritime Containers is another bullish newcomer, with the Monaco-based Greek company paying $11.45 million for a 2010-built 4,360-TEU vessel in December to take its fleet to 21 ships totalling 88,820 TEU since it was set up and listed on the Norwegian over-the-counter market last June.

These companies are the beneficiaries of a global rebound driven by strong performances in the United States, China and Europe.

This accounts for the drop in idle container containerships of more than 500 TEU. Just 99 ships, representing a total of 377,784 TEU, were idle as of January 8, down from 950,000 TEU a year earlier, said Alphaliner.

It's the smaller size sectors that are benefiting most and pumping up the confidence of non-operating owners such as MPC Container Ships, which is targeting a fleet of 100 ships.

And none more so than the classic Panamax ships that appeared to be heading for extinction following the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in mid-2016, allowing the transit of much larger containerships on the key Asia-US east coast trade.

The flood mega ships on the world's top container routes are expected to enter the market in 2018, a boon for the smaller feeder vessels.

"Baby panamaxes", shorter vessels with shallower drafts have found work in Africa and intra-Asian trades, where limited port infrastructure prevent bigger ships from calling.