APM Terminals Zeebrugge

The 2M alliance is adding a discharge call at Zeebrugge to its Shogun/AE1 and Lion/AE6 Asia – North Europe loops to mitigate the impact of worsening landside congestion at other North European hub ports.

“The additional port of call will provide customers with the option to discharge at an easily accessible port, while offering improved coverage for inland connections,” said MSC.

“The two new direct calls will also help to reduce pressure amid the ongoing congestion in European ports,” said the carrier.

Indeed, MSC’s 2M partner Maersk advised last week that its networks were “under severe pressure” which it attributed to “disrupted operations in European ports”.

Moreover, an Alphaliner survey of vessels completing their roundtrip voyages in Asia between 1 – 15 May found that ships deployed on Asia – North Europe loops were delayed by up to 32 days on their pro-forma schedules resulting in carriers blanking a number of forward sailings.

The first sailings to include a Zeebrugge call will be later this month with the arrival of the 23,656 teu MSC Isabella on the Lion/AE6 service and the 13,798 teu MSC Eva on the Shogun/AE1 loop.

The revised rotation of the MSC Isabella will be: Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Felixstowe, while the MSC Eva will now call Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven with a second loading call at Rotterdam.

MSC said that only “local cargo” would be discharged at Zeebrugge and that the calls would not facilitate transhipment cargo.

Nevertheless, some importers may choose to change the port of discharge on their bill of lading to take advantage of the faster transit times due to Zeebrugge’s first discharge port status on the two loops.

The inclusion of Zeebrugge as a fixture in the 2M Asia – North Europe schedules of the two loops is a major coup for the newly-merged Port of Antwerp-Bruges complex.

Regulators green-lighted the merger of the Belgium ports in January and a shareholder’s agreement was signed in April.

Hitherto Zeebrugge has been used generally as an overflow port by the alliances with containers discharged mostly being relayed back to hub ports.

However, the new agreement with MSC appears to specifically exclude transhipment cargoes from the call. This may also apply to Maersk cargoes, but at the time of writing Maersk had not confirmed whether it would also discharge at Zeebrugge on the calls.

Transhipment cargoes, including blocked Russian imports, have gummed up the quays of container terminals in North Europe.

Hapag-Lloyd said last week that the yard density at the 869 berth at Antwerp’s PSA terminal was “back up to 90%” and that reefer plug utilisation at 913 berth remained at 100% with reefer boxes now being stacked three high.

Severe congestion at the main alliance hub ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp has obliged the latter to suspend barge operations until 30 June and feeder operators are suffering huge berthing delays at both Benelux ports.

A major North European feeder operator told The Loadstar that their vessels were waiting up to four days to berth at individual terminals at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Often the discharge plan of feeders requires discharge at two or more terminals, potentially doubling the idle time for the expensive charter ship.

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