A 16-year-old panamax boxship is rumored to have obtained a record-breaking rate for a container shipping fixture. The 5,042-teu CSL Santa Maria (built 2005) is reported fixed for a short period at a rate approaching $160,000 per day. If confirmed, it would be the highest charter rate ever agreed on a container vessel fixture, according to Alphaliner data.

The vessel is operated in the fleet of Andreas Hadjiyiannis-controlled Cyprus Sea Lines (CSL). It is reported to have been fixed for three months by Chinese newcomer BAL Container Line for operation on the Asia-Europe trade. However, BAL told TradeWinds in an email it had not chartered the vessel. If the fixture is correct, it would break the previous record set three weeks ago when the 5,060-teu MSC Maria Clara (built 2004) was reported to be fixed to BAL for 80 days at $135,000 per day.

European brokers believe the astronomical charter rate is credible in a market which is witnessing unprecedented demand. This is partly a result of newcomers from the freight forwarding sector desperate to fix ships. Rates are also pushed higher because of the dearth of supply for containerships, especially for larger vessels where availability has completely dried up. This has shifted charterers’ focus to the smaller boxship segment.

Round-voyage rates for 2,800-teu vessels are purported to have hit a high of $120,000 per day with new players such as China United Lines and Vasi Shipping of Singapore booking ships. Even smaller handysize boxships are obtaining rates close to this level, with the 2,034-teu Aisopos II (built 2016) said to have secured nearly $95,000 per day. The Capital Ship Management-controlled vessel is reported fixed for between one and three months with the charterer believed to be a UK-based forwarder.

It is unclear how long such a bonanza will last for non-operating owners, but it is hard not to consider the current extremes as a bubble waiting to burst,” Alphaliner said.

Hadjiyiannis-controlled CSL appears to be among the owners profiting most from the exceptional container market. The company is believed to be in the process of selling the 5,060-teu S Santiago (built 2006) for $58m to Singapore-based OM Maritime.