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Maersk Line and its newly acquired Hamburg Süd subsidiary will launch a new Asia-South America west coast (WCSA) service network in April.

But the two lines’ combined reefer capacity on the trade – in terms of the number of slots on vessels able to carry reefer containers – will be reduced to meet the conditions imposed on the acquisition.

Hamburg Süd’s current Asia-WCSA vessel-sharing agreement (VSA) with MSC, CMA CGM, Cosco, Hapag-Lloyd and HMM, which operates three weekly loops, will be terminated at the end of March, as required by Chinese and South Korean competition authorities.

According to Alphaliner data, Hamburg Süd operates nine vessels of 7,100-10,000 teu out of the 33 ships deployed on the three loops, and these are likely to be operated in conjunction with the vessels deployed on Maersk Line’s current three-loop Asia-WCSA service.

“Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd’s combined capacity on the new network remains the same as the total capacity currently deployed by the two carriers separately,” Maersk said.

The combined four new service strings, dubbed ASPA and ASCA by Hamburg Süd and AC 1-3 and AC 5 by Maersk, will deploy 39 container vessels of 4,500-10,000 teu capacity and cover 30 key ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hamburg Süd said that one of the highlights of the new offering would be the two weekly sailings for reefer customers from Chile to Asia, as well as a direct service from Chile and Peru to Japan.

However, Hamburg Süd’s aspirations to grow its reefer business on the route could be hobbled by regulatory conditions that were required to be met to obtain a green light for the deal.

Indeed, one of the tough conditions imposed on the takeover by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) was that Maersk and Hamburg Süd’s combined reefer slot capacity share between Asia and Latin America must be reduced from the current 45-50% to 34-39% within 90 days of closing the deal.

Meanwhile, Hamburg Süd’s ex-VSA partners on the Asia-WCSA trade are likely to announce details of their new April offering soon, which could also include newly formed Ocean Network Express (ONE).

Questioned about Maersk’s acquisition of Hamburg Süd last year, Hapag-Lloyd chief executive Rolf Habben Jansen said: “It is always a little difficult to retain market share when you go through a merger.”

He said he saw the takeover of Hamburg Süd as presenting “opportunities to gain market share in Latin America”.

MOFCOM also required that Hamburg Süd withdraw from its VSA partnership covering Asia to the east coast of South America at the earliest opportunity, but it is understood that the first break clause in this agreement is not until the end of 2018.

Commenting on the network revision, Frank Smet, chief commercial officer of Hamburg Süd, said: “With the new services and thanks to the independence of this product – without the involvement of VSA partners – we can deliver what we love the most: flexibility and fast, tailor-made direct connections which we develop with our customers.”

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