Ship Finance International, a Bermuda based charter ship owner, placed a speculative order for four ships capable of carrying 8,700 20-foot equivalent units.
The order highlights the growing interest among ship owners in new container tonnage as shipyards slash prices to replenish thinning order books. The ships, which take SFI’s order book to 12, will be built at an unnamed “major” Korean shipyard.
SFI, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, said it is paying an “attractive” price for the vessels, which are scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.
“The vessels will be marketed for long-term charters, and we have already seen firm interest from leading container operators,” said Ole Hjertaker, CEO of Ship Management AS.
SFI is one of the world’s biggest ship-owning companies, with a fleet of 69 ships, including 24 crude oil tankers, 12 dry bulk carriers, six offshore supply vessels, two car carriers and 19 container ships, including eight new buildings. Most are employed on long-term charters.
The SFI contract comes just days after SinOcean Shipping ordered 10 8,880-TEU vessels that the Oslo-listed ship-owner will charter to an ocean carrier following delivery that will begin in mid-2015.
Container ship orders have recovered sharply from a 2012 slump, despite overcapacity, slow cargo growth and softening freight rates on key routes such as the Europe-Asia trade, due to sharply lower shipyard prices.
Forty-three ships with a combined capacity of almost 329,000 TEUs were ordered in the first four months of the year compared with 77 vessels of 450,000 TEUs in all of 2012, according to Clarkson Research in London.