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November on course to be the crunch month for ocean carriers

By Mike Wackett

November will be a decisive month for ocean carriers as they go all out to push up container spot rates on the key tradelanes of Asia-Europe and the transpacific. According to Alexander Borulev, commodity associate at S&P Global Platts, rates are “no longer falling” due to the blanking programmes of the carriers. And they are preparing a raft of FAK and general rate increases for 1 November. However, the extent of the challenge facing the global carriers is evidenced by today’s Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI), which continues to record substantially depressed rate levels for both routes. Nevertheless, there was a small 2.4 per cent gain this week for the North European market, to $594 per TEU, but this is still some 21 per cent below the level recorded by the index in the same week a year ago. (more…)

Shippers nervous as new Europe-Asia container capacity crunch looms

By Mike Wackett

CMA CGM has announced that it will increase its 40ft FAK rate from North Europe to Asia to $850 from 1 November. The first adjustment this year by the French carrier of its backhaul rates could coincide with what European exporters fear: a severe capacity crunch as a consequence of the vast number of blanked westbound voyages this month, which were a result of the Chinese Golden Week factory shutdown this week and particularly soft forward demand forecasts. Additionally, Maersk and MSC decided to again temporarily suspend their AE2/Swan loop, removing around 18,000 slots a week from the market in a bid to avoid a complete collapse of freight rates on the route. (more…)

Panama Canal use by box ships slows only slightly, but trade wars continue to threaten

By Mike Wackett

The number of container ships transiting the Panama Canal during its fiscal year ending 30 September declined slightly, by 1.1 per cent to 2,575. But, there could be further reductions after ocean carriers announced a number of blanked sailings in the coming weeks on their Asia-US east coast all-water schedules ahead of the slack season. Dry bulk ships were the biggest users of the waterway, 2,657 vessels, also down 1.1 per cent; chemical tankers, at 2,035, were down just 0.4 per cent; and LPG carriers with 1,087 transits, were up 6.9 per cent. (more…)

MSC the latest carrier pledging to avoid the Northern Sea Route

By Gavin van Marle

MSC has joined a growing list of container carriers ruling out operating vessels in the Arctic, due to thinning sea ice round the North Pole. This is despite the fact that these conditions have made the Northern Sea Route between Europe and Asia increasingly viable for the lines. The Geneva-headquartered carrier said it would focus on “improving environmental performance on existing global trade routes”, as it had become “convinced that the 21 million containers moved each year for its customers can be transported around the world without passing through this Arctic corridor”. Chief Executive Diego Aponte explained: ““As a responsible company, with a longstanding nautical heritage and passion for the sea, MSC finds the disappearance of Arctic ice profoundly disturbing. Every drop in the oceans is precious and our industry should focus its efforts on limiting environmental emissions and protecting the marine environment.” (more…)

LNG: the fuel of the future for container ships, or a ‘disastrous’ option?

LNG: the fuel of the future for container ships, or a ‘disastrous’ option?

By Mike Wackett

By the end of next year, 20-25 per cent of the global containership fleet will be fitted with scrubbers, enabling those vessels to consume lower-cost heavy fuel oil (HFO) blends, predicts Alphaliner. Moreover, it expects 2M alliance partners Maersk and MSC to have their combined 62-strong 18,000-23,000 TEU ULCV fleet to be equipped with scrubbers by 2021.

After 1 January, it will be illegal for ships to bunker fuel with a sulphur content above 0.5 per cent, unless they are fitted with exhaust gas cleaning ‘scrubber’ systems. The consultant said that, at 15 October, the number of containerships already fitted with scrubbers was 142, “with a long line being retrofitted or waiting to enter yards”. (more…)

Alaska ferry system ends service to Prince Rupert due to lack of security personnel at Canadian terminal

By R. Bruce Striegler

A critical transportation link between Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, Alaska, has been suspended over a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirement that Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) secure Canadian law enforcement presence to protect CBP personnel in Prince Rupert while inspection tasks are performed. The ferry system operated two sailings per week during summer months and once weekly in winter. In 2018 there were 5,700 passengers and 3,000 vehicles. The ferry terminal is unusual – a U.S.-funded project on land leased from a federal Port Authority in Canada. (more…)