Maersk Line announces streamlining of Med – Middle East India offer

Maersk Line today announced a complete revision of its services between the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India. As part of the revamp, the carrier will consolidate its network of five weekly container liner services – counting in Med-ME connections that are served as part of further-reaching loops – into four weekly slings. Upgrades to the deployed vessel fleet will – at least in part – mitigate the capacity reduction resulting from the associated loop closure.

Changes on the five relevant services are summarized as follows:

– ‘ME4’ – 6 x 4,500 teu, linking the West Med hubs and Italy to the Middle East Gulf and India, is to be suspended;

– ‘ME2’ – 6 x 5,600 teu, linking the West Med hubs and Spain to the Middle East Gulf, to increase capacity as larger ships phase-in, Italy call added, rotation stretched one week;

– ‘ME3’ – 6 x 3,600 teu, linking the East Med to the Indian Subcontinent, will keep the same rotation but see a capacity increase as well.

– ‘MECL1’ – 7 x 4,800 teu, linking the USEC to Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent with way-calls in the Med, will be upgraded notably, additional Algeciras call added, round-trip time to be stretched to eight weeks.

– ‘MECL2’ – 10 x 4,600 teu, linking the USEC to Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent with way-calls in the Med and Red Sea. The service remains unaltered, apart from a change on the USEC that is not relevant for the Med-ME-India trade (Miami replaces Norfolk as of mid-June).

The to-be-closed ‘ME4’ presently deploys a fleet of with six baby-overpanamax sister vessels of 4,500 teu capacity (Odense-L-type, not to be confused with the much larger Sammax-L-Type from DSME shipyard). They will phase out in Jebel Ali, starting with LEDA MAERSK on 24 May. Last ship to phase-out will be LUNA MAERSK, on 29 June. The re-assignment of these vessels has yet to be decided upon.

The ‘ME2’ loop will make an additional call in Genoa, to maintain the link between Italy and the Middle East. The new Italy calls comes at the expense of Marsaxlokk (Malta), which was called westbound until now. This service does not call Nhava Sheva and the Indian call is not re-introduced, as India-Middle East is now ensured through the enhanced ‘MECL2’ and dedicated yet-to-start West-Med feeders out of Algeciras. The capacity of the ‘ME2’ is due to increase with the replacement of the 5,618 teu, 2000 built, vessels, with 7,250 teu ships. The first of these, MAERSK SEMAKAU, has already phased into the loop. The ‘MECL2’ rotation will be extended by one week and ships are expected to cascade in from the ‘SAFARI’.

The ‘ME3’ loop will maintain its rotation but the existing fleet consisting of six 3,600 teu vessels will gradually be replaced by six 4,800 panamax vessels – presumably ships cascaded from ‘MECL1’, where they were replaced by US-flagged 6,500 teu ships.

Two further loops that are – at least in part – used to carry Med-Middle East-Subcontinent cargo need to be kept in mind too. These services are the USEC-related ‘MECL1’ and ‘MECL2’. Changes to the former have already been detailed in a recent linervision news, whereas the ‘MECL2’ does not see any relevant changes.

The fate of Maersk Lines unusual series of open-top 3,600 teu vessels (NEDLLOYD AFRICA and sisters), presently trading on the ‘ME3’ where they are to be replaced will be interesting to observe. The Japanese-built quintet was built in between December 1991 and April 1992. Given their age and their size, the vessels are candidates for recycling. Sold and leased back by their original owner P&O Nedlloyd for 12 year-periods in 2004, the ships are however destined to stay with Maersk Line until early 2016.

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