suez canal ship
Photo: VesselFinder

More regional and intra-Asia carriers are returning to long-haul trades as rates rise to Covid-19 peaks.

SeaLead Shipping, based in Dubai and Singapore, is restarting its transpacific service to the US west coast, while BAL Container Line has relaunched its China-Mexico Express service.

By August, Asia-US west coast rates could hit their Covid-19 peak of $8,000 per 40ft – they are currently around $6,209.

SeaLead’s new USWC service – Nansha, Ningbo, Shanghai, Long Beach, Nansha – will operate on an irregular basis, with two sailings planned for this month. With a six-week turnaround, it starts on 17 June with 1,809 teu Adamastos. The second sailing will see 5,610 teu Suez Canal leaving Nansha on 26 June.

SeaLead started transpacific operations in August 2021 on Asia-USWC, with an Asia-US east coast service added in March 2022. They were operated on an irregular basis, using ships of 3,500 to 7,000 teu, until December 2022.

SeaLead’s acting head, SC Chan, said: “The introduction of the Asia-USWC service is a strategic response to the robust demand we’ve seen in transpacific trade.”

BAL restarted its China-Mexico Express (CMX) service – Yantian, Qingdao, Lazaro Cardenas, Manzanillo, Yantian – on 1 June. The Chinese company, part of LC Logistics, suspended it in January 2023 when the pandemic-induced boom ended. It will turn in six weeks, using the newly chartered 1,809 teu Amoureux, expected to make two round voyages in June and July.

BAL has recently signed a letter of intent with Jiangnan Shipyard to order up to four 14,000 teu box ships, adding to an existing order for two similar vessels due to be delivered next year.

Meanwhile, other opportunistic players, such as Ellerman City Liners and TS Lines, have also returned to long-haul lanes, or plan to do so.

Consultancy Linerlytica said today SeaLead, Ellerman and BAL had also begun chartering more vessels, after noting that the transpacific and Asia-Europe routes had become lucrative even for smaller ships of less than 4,000 teu.

Linerlytica said: “All this is reminiscent of the Covid-19 bull run of 2021, but this time it’s all due to the Red Sea crisis that has upended the supply-demand balance while also spurring the return of port congestion and box shortages.”

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