Massive order placed for “New Panamax” ships

Containership owner and charterer Seaspan has placed a $2 billion order for 22 newbuildings with a Chinese shipbuilder.

The so-called “New Panamax” 10,000teu vessels will cost around $98 million each from Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, and will be up to 30% more fuel-efficient than previous panamax designs.

The order was made as one of the world’s largest private equity firms, Carlyle Group, announced it would set up a new containership investment venture involving Seaspan.

Panamax ship with cargo and containers transiting the Panama Canal.

Panamax ship with cargo and containers transiting the Panama Canal.

The group will invest up to $5 billion to buy dozens of containerships and tankers in a joint-venture with three of the biggest players in the Asian maritime market, Dennis Washington, Gerry Wang and Graham Porter.

Washington’s son Kyle is Seaspan’s Chairman and Wang its CEO, while Porter is a director of Seaspan and Chairman of Tiger Group Investments, which has a number of Chinese interests.

Seaspan has agreed to invest up to $100 million of equity while Carlyle Group is providing $750 million, with the rest coming from the other shareholders.

The “New Panamax” vessels will be made available to the new venture, said Seaspan.

“The company will primarily focus on bringing together Chinese shipbuilders, lenders and state-owned companies to support China’s desire to increase the amount of cargo it controls,” said a statement from Carlyle.

Seaspan will have a right of first refusal on containership investment opportunities available to the new venture and a right of first offer for any containership the new venture proposes to sell.

Wang said: “We believe the increased buying power and scale achievable through this venture, combined with Seaspan’s right of first refusal, will provide a valuable means by which we can selectively and cost effectively grow our fleet and better serve our customers.

“In addition, we believe that the combined scale of our business and this venture will allow us to realize volume discounts for newbuilding orders, negotiate design improvements from shipyards and obtain more attractive vessel financing than we would otherwise be able to achieve on our own.”

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