Hyundai vessel

UK shippers using Southampton as their main container gateway are set to see the port increase its links with Asia as South Korean line Hyundai Merchant Marine today confirmed it is launching a new standalone service.

In an interesting new twist in the competing offers of Felixstowe and Southampton for UK forwarders and importers, HMM revealed that the port rotation of the AEX service will be Pusan-Shanghai-Ningbo-Kaohsiung-Shenzhen-Singapore-Colombo-Rotterdam-Hamburg-Southampton-Singapore-Hong Kong-Pusan.

The launch will mean HMM will be one of the few lines to offer services into both the UK’s main box ports, as its existing Asia-UK traffic is carried on Maersk and MSC’s 2M vessels, which call at Felixstowe.

HMM said: “AEX is an independent service outside the strategic cooperation with 2M.”

The line’s slot-charter agreement with 2M still has two years to run and some analysts warn the carrier will need to be careful not to cannibalise its own volumes.

The new AEX service will deploy ten 4,600 teu vessels, far smaller than most others on the Asia-Europe trade, but HMM is promising shippers an “express” service with a 28-day transit between Shanghai and Rotterdam and 30 days from Shanghai to Hamburg.

Maersk ended direct services into Southampton at the beginning of this year, and confirmed the 2M’s commitment to Felixstowe this week when its latest ultra-large container vessel (ULCV), Manchester Maersk, made its maiden call at the port.

Meanwhile, HMM also today finally confirmed speculation that it would order a series of new ULCVs in the first half of this year. The vessels will be compliant with new shipping emission regulations coming into force at the beginning of 2020.

HMM chief executive CK Yoo said: “New environmental regulations are expected to drive changes not only to the shipping industry but also to competitive market environments.

“I believe HMM can secure competitiveness in a global market after 2020, if HMM arms itself with eco-friendly mega-containerships in preparation for [the] environmental regulations… the new independent AEX service will be the touchstone of a game-changer.”


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