As in the case of the Asia/North Europe trade, the Asia/Mediterranean has been the scene of a volatile rate environment, with spot rates on the westbound route rising and falling over a short space of time.
Back at the end of June, the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) reported two consecutive weeks of increases in spot rates with a total of US$677/TEU in just 14 days. However, by the end of the first week of July, those rates had fallen US$204/TEU in just seven days, strongly illustrating that nothing is certain in the container shipping world.
Asia/Mediterranean trade has recently not only been influenced by market ups and downs, but has increasingly become
focussed upon the political arena, particularly as far as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea areas are concerned.
As a result of the unrest, lines have been forced to drop capacity, switch ports and cancel sailings in an increasing effort to avoid port congestion and problems in an attempt to maintain scheduled sailings and keep some sort of normality
to their operations.
Most recently, the O3 Alliance lines (CMA-CGM, UASC and China Shipping), have intentions to drop three Asia/Mediterranean sailings covering the Black Sea region due to lack of cargo.
The sailings have been confirmed as dropped over the period Week 31 through Week 37 because of poor market conditions, and effectively will take out some 30,000 TEU of operational capacity through their cancellations.
The cancelled sailings involve the Black Sea Express (BEX) service covering Dalian, Tianjin, Kwangyang, Pusan, Shanghai, Ningbo, Chiwan, Port Kelang, Beirut, Iskenderun, Istanbul, Constantza, Odessa, Ilychevsk, Piraeus, Port Kelang and Dalian.
Sailings cancelled include Week 31, Week 34 and Week 37. Total weekly capacity withdrawn is 30,000 TEU over seven weeks covering Asia/Black Sea trade.
But while certain areas of the eastern Mediterranean region paint a concerning picture, the western and central areas paint an entirely different picture. For example, weekly capacity on the O3 Alliance Asia/Mediterranean service known as the AMX1/AMC1/MEX2 service, will increase by 14% during July and August as 13,000/14,000 TEU vessels are switched from Asia/North Europe services to replace vessels of 8,500/9,500 TEU capacity presently deployed on the Mediterranean service.
Three 13,000/14,000 TEU vessels will phase in over the next two months, two operated by CSCL and one operated by UASC will displace the smaller capacity on the AMX1/AMC1/MEX2 service which is tonnaged by CSCL and UASC with CMA-CGM having slot space.
Weekly capacity on the service at the beginning of July was 9,300 TEU, but by mid-August that will have jumped to 10,615 TEU.
The increase comes as the 14,074 TEU vessels, CSCL Venus and CSCL Jupiter, displaced from the Asia/North Europe AEX7/AEC8/FAL2 service with the introduction of new 18,000+ TEU vessels, together with the 13,100 TEU UASC-operated Umm Salal, are phased in to replace the smaller capacity.
AMX1/AMC1/MEX2 service port rotation is Qingdao, Pusan, Shanghai, Ningbo, Shekou, Port Kelang, Port Said, La Spezia, Genoa, Fos, Valencia, Port Said, Jeddah, Khorfakkan, Port Kelang and Qingdao.
Although there is some market uncertainty over the Europe/West Africa trade, it remains strong, and it is estimated that around half of the container volumes on that trade are moved firstly on the Asia/Europe mainhaul trades, then transhipped in the western Mediterranean over ports such as Algeciras or Tangiers.
But, as with situations such as two ports in the market, there is bound to be competition for business. UASC, CMACGM,
Hanjin and China Shipping are to change their western Mediterranean transhipment port of call from Tangiers to Algeciras on the Middle East/Indian sub-continent/USEC service known as the MINA/IMU from July. The new port rotation will be Khorfakkan, Jebel Ali, Port Qasim, Nhava Sheva, Mundra, Jeddah, Port Said East, La Spezia, Livorno, Genoa, La Spezia, Fos, Barcelona, Valencia, Algeciras, New York, Norfolk, Savannah, Miami, Algeciras, Valencia, Barcelona, Livorno, Genoa, Malta, Port Said East, Jeddah and Khorfakkan.
Deployment will remain 11 x 6,500/6,900 TEU vessels. The first Algeciras call is scheduled for August 28.
By Paul Richardson
Sea Freight Correspondent | London