Majestic Maersk at Felixstowe

The 2M shipping alliance’s decision to temporarily consolidate Asia-North Europe port calls in the new year has been broadly welcomed by stakeholders.

Maersk and MSC said from January, the AE1/Shogun service will omit the call at Felixstowe and AE55/Griffin loop would no longer call at Rotterdam.

“As a result of the exceptional waiting time and congestion faced in North Europe, Maersk will reduce the number of North European port calls by consolidating the Felixstowe and Rotterdam calls between both the AE1 and the AE55,” said the carrier.

It said while it realised the measure “equals fewer calls to North Europe”, it said it believed “this to be the best course of action to mitigate the full disruption across the network”.

It added that the pro-forma port stays, at Felixstowe on its AE55 service and at Rotterdam on the AE1, would be extended to accommodate the increased discharge and load exchange.

In addition, the 2M is targeting a “leaner rotation on both services” in Asia, shifting the AE1/Shogun Shanghai bookings to the AE55/Griffin loop and vice-versa, transferring the Yantian cargo on the AE55/Griffin to the AE1/Shogun.

Although Maersk and MSC say the loop port call rationalisation is temporary, it could become a more permanent network adjustment if the 2M finds that the strategy of offering fewer calls does not see it concede market share to the other alliances.

As a bonus, Maersk and MSC will see a reduction in voyage disbursements as a result of the slimmer port rotation, along with a reduction in feeder costs.

Surprisingly, the port of Felixstowe, which has already ‘lost’ the direct call of the 2M’s AE7/Condor loop until March due to vessel berthing delays, said it “welcomed” the changes to the alliance’s schedule.

“Combining both services into a single call will provide a faster, more efficient and more reliable service for shippers,” said the port. “The change is driven, in part, by strong demand for goods into the UK,” it added, noting that its throughput this year was up more than 10% on 2020.

It maintained  there were “no landside delays at Felixstowe”, although earlier this week the port was obliged again to halt the restitution of empty containers for the account of MSC and CMA CGM, resulting in additional transport costs for shippers.

Shippers The Loadstar contacted this morning gave a mixed response to the 2M decision to consolidate bookings on the loops. One forwarder said: “We are already struggling to get bookings for the UK and this means one less option.”

However, another contact said he feared that the UK could soon be served just by feeders and that “at least this is a direct call”.

Indeed, according to anecdotal reports, Felixstowe 2M AE7/ Condor imports discharged at Wilhelmshaven and Antwerp are taking up to four weeks to be relayed back, due to a combination of port congestion and a shortage of feeders.

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