Ocean carriers are jockeying for a bigger slice of the Asia-Africa tradelanes as volumes rebound and container spot rates hit a seven-year high.
Alphaliner reports that Cosco and Gold Star Line (GSL) are offering an extra sailing on their joint Asia-South Africa-West Africa service, deploying six 4,200 teu class ship dubbed WAX5 by Cosco and FA3 by GSL.
The new loop will turn in 12 weeks, calling at Ningbo, Nansha, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Kelang, Durban, Lagos and Tema and then back to Ningbo. The first sailing, the 4,252 teu Seaspan Chiwan, left Ningbo on Monday.
According to Alphaliner data, Cosco offers three weekly services on this route in cooperation with PIL, GSL and MOL, while GSL (an affiliate company of Zim) provides two weekly sailings in partnership with Cosco and PIL.
A recovery in volumes in the African market and a consequential spike in spot rates has wetted the appetite of carriers. Indeed, last month Maersk Line and CMA CGM launched an extra fortnightly Asia-West Africa loop deploying 4,200 vessels and focusing on the Nigerian market.
Meanwhile, a recent analysis by Drewry of the Asia-southern Africa market noted that the headhaul trade was up 4.3% in the first six months against 2016, and in Q2 southbound shipments leapt by 8%, the fastest growth rate on the route since the second quarter of 2013.
Imports have grown as importers have taken advantage of a recovering currency to restock in anticipation of higher consumer demand.
Drewry’s Container Freight Insight reports a seven-year peak for spot rates between Shanghai and Durban last month, at $3,090 per 40ft, as vessel utilisation reached 79%, a high level for the trade and a massive turnaround in rates on a tradelane which, by July last year, had slumped to below $1,000 per 40ft.
Unsurprisingly, carriers have been quick off the mark to upgrade their offering, with Drewry estimating a year-on-year 15% increase in capacity so far, with even more slots to be added this month and next. And Drewry believes that strong demand will mitigate the hike in supply.
It said: “Freight rates should continue their ascent in this growing trade over the coming months as new capacity will be supported by greater volumes.”
During the Maersk Group H1 results presentation last week, CEO Soren Skou said: “We believe we have the best fundamentals we have seen in quite a while.”