Container market stirring as lines adjust capacity
The container market is starting to stir again after months of quiet consolidation, with lines shuffling capacity around and shippers starting to complain about rising rates. Maersk Line yesterday announced that it will adjust its Trans-Pacific 6 service (TP6) to add a direct call from South Vietnam's new up and coming deepwater port at Cai Mep to the US West Coast starting from May 12, following other carriers such as Neptune Orient Lines container unit APL, which started such direct services last June.
The Grand Alliance of Hapag-Lloyd, NYK Line and OOCL also last week announced a direct call at the Vung Tau province port starting from May. They will deploy eight 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) vessels on their South China Sea Japan Express (SCX) service. Eastbound rotation runs Cai Mep, Laem Chabang, Singapore, Kobe, Nagoya, Tokyo, Sendai and Los Angeles and Westbound will call at Oakland, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Kaohsiung, Shekou and Cai Mep.
Maersk will however become the first carrier, with the Mathilde Maersk, to introduce 9,000-TEU Post-Panamaxes to Vietnam, calling at the SP-PSA International Terminal and maximising the port's deepwater capabilities. APL runs its service with 4,250-TEU vessels.
Maersk's service, which will be run with 14 vessels running a slow-steaming schedule, will go direct into the APM Terminals facility at Los Angeles, delivering the cargo in 18 days. APL's Pacific South 1 service reaches Seattle in 15 days.
Eastbound rotation includes Tanjung Pelepas, Cai Mep, Yantian, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles while Westbound will run Los Angeles, Yokohama, Nagoya, Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen, Hong Kong, Yantian, and Tanjung Pelepas. Westbound, Vietnam will be serviced via transshipment at Hong Kong by feeder service. Meanwhile, Maersk's Vietnam service to and from the US East Coast will remain unchanged on the TP3 and TP7 service.
Lines are seeking to tap into increasing US demand for Vietnamese exports, including garments, footwear, ceramics, furniture, toys, coffee, tea, seafood and consumer goods.
'It gives us great pleasure to be able to meet our customers' demand for a direct call to the US West Coast. We have worked hard to meet this demand and make it feasible to call Vung Tau with the largest vessels ever to call a Vietnamese port,' said Maersk Line Vietnam general-director Peter Smidt-Nielsen.
Maersk is also redeploying capacity to the Europe/West Central Asia trade by reintroducing its ME3 service. This service was temporarily withdrawn last year but Maersk is bringing it back to meet the 'continuously strong demand on the Europe/West Central Asia trade and the focus on growth in the dynamic Mediterranean/ Black Sea region' and provide a dedicated service for the Mediterranean-Middle East/India trade.
The service reintroduction comes amid complaints of looming backlogs in Indian ports as boxes pile up due to lack of capacity caused by lines bypassing India enroute to Europe. Lloyd's List quoted a shipper as saying there was up to three weeks' worth of backlog in South Indian ports and the premium to get cargo from India to Northern Europe is US$150 to US$200 per TEU.
Meanwhile in South China, the China Shipper's Association, Shenzhen Shipper's Association, Hong Kong Shippers' Council and Macau Shippers' Association have written to authorities in Hong Kong and China protesting at the recent introduction of an emergency bunker surcharge (EBS) by shipping lines on the China-intra-Asia trade for all export shipments from China at ports of origin.
They slammed the EBS as a 'groundless fee' with 'no justification' and added that it is discriminatory to South China shippers as the surcharge is not being imposed in other parts of the country. They estimate that it will cost them one billion yuan (S$205 million) annually.