Soft demand and falling rates push 2M to blank another Asia-USEC sailing
2M partners Maersk Line and MSC have announced plans to blank sailings between Asia and ...
The UK’s biggest container port has seen a recent return of landside congestion, leading to a temporary ban on empty container restitution, rail move caps and its biggest customer looking at alternative routes.
Last week, MSC took the rare step of advising customers it was taking action to minimise disruption to its shippers at Felixstowe; due, it said, “to continued congestion” at the UK east coast hub.
MSC’s frustration followed just days after the Hutchison-owned port lifted a ban on the return of empty containers to its “over-full” parks.
Felixstowe chief operating officer Stephen Abraham blamed the previous congestion on “a significant number of off-slot vessels”; an “imbalance between outbound and inbound container flows” and “the demise of Hanjin Shipping”.
He noted that there were “over 10,000 stranded [Hanjin] empties at the port with little prospect of immediate evacuation”.
It’s understood that like many ports and depots around the world since Hanjin’s collapse on 31 August, Felixstowe is “stuck” with the South Korean carrier’s empty containers awaiting the conclusion of a myriad of legal action, including its own over outstanding stevedoring and storage charges.
On September 23, Mr Abraham advised that an improved situation at the port meant that the empty container restriction would be removed as from the day shift on Sunday September 25.
However, one local haulier told The Loadstar that landside congestion at the port had only worsened.
“We just have no idea how long to allow for our drivers to get tipped, and it’s getting worse,” he said.
Clearly, MSC has also lost patience, prompting it to put out the customer advisory, which would not have happened until all its normal channels had been exhausted.
The timing of the return of congestion is bad news for Felixstowe – two new vessel-sharing alliances are currently drafting their network plans in readiness for next April, while the 2M’s network offer in theory is unchanged as it stands.
Despite current problems, it is assumed that the 2M alliance of Maersk and MSC, along with the proposed addition of Hyundai Merchant Marine, will retain its current calls at Felixstowe – although the return of congestion at the port will not go down well in Copenhagen or Geneva, and there could be pressure to increase the number of calls at Southampton, transfer a string to London Gateway, or feeder from the continent.
And, there is mounting speculation among the UK liner community that the Ocean Alliance grouping of CMA CGM (including APL), Cosco, Evergreen and OOCL will opt for Southampton as its main UK hub.
This leaves THE Alliance – Hapag-Lloyd (including UASC), K Line, MOL, NYK and Yang Ming – rumoured to be negotiating with both DP World ports of Southampton and London Gateway.