Suspicions aroused as Maersk stops bookings on north Europe-to-Asia cargo

2012 03 25

THE world's biggest container shipping company, Maersk Line, has stopped all cargo bookings from North Europe to Asia because it says it does not, and will not, have the eastbound slots needed until early May.

That's because, Maersk told shippers in its Weekly Highlight newsletter, of a "large number of consecutive vessel cancellations following Chinese New Year", leaving north European ports short of tonnage to move the cargo east. The Danish shipping giant then told customers to "make alternative arrangements for your cargo."

This has aroused suspicions of Ben Hackett of Hackett Associates, a shipping analyst who produces the Global Port Tracker, who said: "They are using it to bump the freight rates up. I think it is more an unwillingness to carry cargo at certain rates.

"Even if you take out five per cent or 10 per cent capacity, how do you end up with a lack of capacity?" said Mr Hackett, reported American Shipper. "Only about five per cent of capacity has been withdrawn. In theory they are running their Daily Maersk service, so it should not be a problem."

But Maersk said: "Very low westbound demand from Asia after the Chinese New Year prompted several carriers to cancel multiple westbound sailings and, in turn, eastbound sailings. Shippers are disappointed by the capacity shortage. This has reached an unprecedented level necessitating a booking stop to prevent escalation of the backlog."

Maersk also said a stronger eastbound demand has been noted in recent months and has continued to rise despite general rate increases for February, March and April.

Maersk also said terminal density at some north European ports had come close to yard capacity and if bookings were not stopped, congestion would build and cut productivity, further impeding clearance of the backlog.

Source Shipping Gazette - Daily Shipping News

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