TS Kaohsiung

Taiwanese challenger ocean carrier TS Lines has partnered with CULines on its fortnightly Asia – North Europe AEX loop with the deployment of its own tonnage.

According to Alphaliner, TS Lines has initially provided the 4,198 teu TS Singapore, which joins the service today in Ningbo, as the sixth vessel on the loop.

The Loadstar understands from reliable market sources that the service will be upgraded before the peak season to weekly as further tonnage is introduced by TS Lines.

“CULines would need a fleet of 10 vessels to upgrade its AEX to a weekly service. The joining of TS Lines with a sixth vessel can be considered to be part of this ambition to further upgrade this loop,” said Alphaliner.

The AEX fortnightly loop was launched by CULines in June 2021 after the carrier had tested the market with several ad-hoc sailings.

However, as the market pivots towards some form of normalisation it is essential to offer at least a weekly service in order to compete with the three vessel-sharing alliances.

A carrier source told The Loadstar that his company was watching the development “very closely”.

“We are not concerned about the ad-hoc operators as they will be gone once rates start falling, but TS Lines is a serious player and if the loop goes to weekly it will be competition that we must take seriously,” he said.

Indeed, TS Lines has appointed well respected and commercially astute agents across North Europe, including Peter W Lampke in Hamburg and Kestrel Liner Agencies for the UK.

Moreover, for the Benelux, TS Lines has established TSL Belgium and TSL the Netherlands in a joint venture with agency grouping Best & Osterrieth, part of the Dutch Herfurth Group.

Interestingly, Lampke along with Best & Osterrieth represented Singapore’s PIL in North Europe during its Asia – North Europe VSA liner service with Wan Hai Lines which operated from 2004 to 2011.

Unlike the transpacific, which has seen a raft of non-alliance services commence links between Asia and North America adding, according to Alphaliner data, some 39,000 slots per week, newcomers on the Asia – Europe tradelanes “still only face limited competition” said the consultant.

It said that the mixture of regular and ad-hoc services mainly for North Europe have added only about 5,000 teu a week to the market with the average weekly share representing just 1.1% of the total capacity.

Alphaliner said that the average weekly capacity between Asia and Europe has increased by just over 9% in the past year to approximately 450,000 teu per week.

It said that some 50% of the extra capacity on the route had been provided by the Ocean Alliance partners as CMA CGM and Evergreen took charge of several ULCV newbuildings of 23,000 – 24,000 teu.

Alphaliner has reported that the Ocean Alliance has now overtaken the 2M to become the biggest Asia – Europe grouping with a combined market share of 38%, up from 37.1% a year ago.

The 2M partners Maersk and MSC have seen their market share fall from 37.9% to 36.2% over the same period, while the market share of THE Alliance members has edged down to 24.7% from 25%.

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