APL Oregon
Photo: VesselFinder

Ocean carriers are “scrambling for any tonnage” to provide additional capacity on east-west services, but the tonnage providers are “taking advantage” as the cost of chartering vessels has recently risen rapidly.

On Tuesday, French carrier CMA CGM announced its French Peak Service, which will see seven additional sailings of 7,000 teu vessels from Asia to North Europe and the Mediterranean.

They will start with the 30 June departure of the 6,350 teu APL Oregon, calling at Yantian-Cai Mep-Singapore-Le Havre-Antwerp, followed by a sailing every two weeks from China to alternating European destinations. The extra sailings to the Med will call Shekou-Cai Mep-Singapore-Fos-Malta.

Alphaliner noted in its weekly analysis: “It is not the first time that CMA CGM provides extra capacity from Asia to French ports.

“In the last quarter of 2021, when space was tight during the Covid pandemic period, the French carrier deployed three extra sailings from Chinese ports and Singapore to Fos, Le Havre and Dunkirk.”

Meanwhile, MSC’s Brittania service, with the 9,640 teu MSC Denisse X will launch on 1 July and connect China and Vietnam to the UK, the Netherlands and Germany – featuring Liverpool as its first European call.

MSC also announced yesterday it was reinstating its Mustang transpacific express service on 8 July, the 2023-built 16,000 teu MSC Lella calling Yantian-Ningbo-Shanghai-Long Beach.

The Geneva-headquartered carrier said: “In response to increasing transpacific market demand, the Mustang service will provide increased capacity and faster transit times between east Asia and US west coast.”

Maersk’s head of ocean product UK and Ireland, Joe Knight, said at this week’s Multimodal exhibition in Birmingham: “Vessels are fully utilised and that’s why there are new services coming online, which honestly is great for the industry, to get as much pressure out as possible.

“They are very small vessels, in relative terms to the Far East norm. So, you’d be expecting to run 20,000 teu or 14,000 teu vessels, and we’re seeing 3,000 teu ships being deployed,” he added.

Peter Sand, chief analyst for analytics platform Xeneta, told The Loadstar tonnage providers were “taking advantage” of the stronger market by charging a higher charter rates and demanding longer tenures.

According to Mr Sand, Maersk recently chartered a 4,600 teu vessel for two years at $40,000 a day, and CMA CGM a 7,100 teu vessel for around three months at $80,000 a day.

CEO of Vespucci Maritime Lars Jensen said this was “yet another example of the return to pandemic-level conditions”, which could be taken as an indication that the carriers believe the current tight conditions would last at least a few more months.

For comparison, Mr Jensen noted that the benchmark average rate for 2024 year-to-date from MB Shipbrokers was $32,000 for the 5,500-7,000 teu segment.

Mr Sand added: “All carriers fight for the same ships – either you buy, or you charter – and they are all scrambling for tonnage now. There is big money to be made, at the expense of shippers who get only to pay more and more for deteriorating service levels.”

Meanwhile, Singapore-based carrier Sealead announced a new direct service connecting China and South Korea with California. The first sailing  is scheduled for 16 June and will call at Nansha, Ningbo, Shanghai, Qingdao, Busan and Long Beach.

Alphaliner said: “This rotation is almost identical to that of a former transpacific loop launched by SeaLead in August 2021, during Covid, when spot ocean freight rates were soaring and cargo demand was very strong.”

At this week’s TOC Europe event in Rotterdam, Mr Jensen said the relaunch of these extra loaders was part of the same trend that has seen smaller carriers return to deepsea trades as spot rate levels soar

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