By Mike Wackett

As the transpacific contract season begins, restructured South Korean carrier Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) has announced plans for its U.S. west coast service after it exits the G6 alliance in April. According to Alphaliner data, HMM will offer three Asia-USWC links, deploying 19 vessels of 6,300-6,800 TEU capacities, with a weekly capacity of some 19,000 TEUs. The PS1 loop will call at Long Beach, PS2 will serve Los Angeles and Oakland and PS3 will call at Tacoma and Vancouver.

The services will replace HMM’s participation in the G6 and its standalone HNS (Hyundai New Start) service, launched in September in the wake of the Hanjin Shipping failure. HMM today released PIERS data showing a big jump in its USWC liftings in January, up 55.3 per cent year on year, to 14,899 TEU a week, and is now ranked the sixth-biggest carrier on the route after Evergreen, Cosco, Maersk, MSC and APL, with a 7.5 per cent market share, versus its previous 4.9 per cent.

Before its collapse, Hanjin was the third-ranked carrier on the route with a market share of 7.6 per cent. Although HMM gained market share after the demise of its compatriot, its rivals also benefited, with APL gaining 1.6 per cent and Maersk enjoying a 1.5 per cent lift in market share, according to PIERS’ January data. In mid-February HMM said: “Our volume and market share have gradually increased since Hanjin Shipping’s receivership.” It added: “We recently achieved an upgraded credit rating of BB (stable) which helps to rebuild trust with customers.”

A few days later, it was announced that HMM would receive W720bn ($630m) from a state-backed ship financing firm to “shore up its capital base”, and that the carrier would also be placing orders for five new containerships as part of the financing programme.

HMM appears to need to rebuild the trust of major shippers in Korean shipping, such as Walmart, which had supply chains disrupted when Hanjin went into receivership at the end of August. Korean media claimed Walmart had “severed all contracts” with Korean shipping lines after the Hanjin failure. However, HMM has contacted The Loadstar to say that the statement was “simply untrue”, according to Walmart’s Director of International Corporate Affairs, Marilee McInnis.

Ms. McInnis told American Shipper Walmart was “currently speaking to another Korean carrier regarding our shipping needs”. She added: “I can’t tell you who specifically we are speaking with, but we go through an annual bid process for services where multiple companies participate.”

Meanwhile, the end of February saw the 2M alliance announce an extra Asia-U.S. east coast service to its network from April – called TP16 by Maersk and Emerald by MSC – to accommodate the extra volumes from its new slot charter agreements on the route with HMM and Hamburg Sud. Both carriers say only their vessels will be deployed on the service and have sought to reassure shippers that containers will not be loaded onto HMM vessels without their prior agreement, after receiving a negative backlash after the cooperation agreement was signed in December.

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (