The French Line CMA CGM and its compatriot Marfret are to double the sailing frequency of their joint ‘Panama Direct’ service, which connects North Europe to New Zealand via the Panama Canal, with stopovers on the USEC, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific Islands.
As of September, inaugurated with the departure from Tilbury on 18 September of the 2,226 teu CMA CGM MANET, the service will offer weekly sailings as opposed to the current fortnightly departures.
The ‘Panama Direct’ currently employs a fleet of six vessels in the 2,226 to 3,104 teu size range on a 84-day rotation.
In order to maintain the service with weekly fixed-day sailings, not only six, but indeed seven additional vessels are to join the loop. The new fleet size of 13 ships is necessary since the service will be stretched by one week, from today’s round-trip time of 84 days to a new duration of 91 days.
While the two carriers yet have to advise which ships will join the loop, CMA CGM stated that it will bring in five of the seven new vessels, whereas Marfret is to remain a junior partner on the ‘Panama Direct’ with one ship. Two ships will be contributed by CMA CGM’s sister company ANL, which will thus gain operator status on the service.
In addition to these changes, the carriers will also slightly modify the service’s port rotation:
On the westbound leg of the ‘Panama Direct’, a new call at Cartagena (Colombia) will be introduced to replace the current Manzanillo (Panama) call. Further to this an additional call at Lyttelton will be introduced as of 15 November.
The new rotation will read as follows: Tilbury, Rotterdam, Dunkirk, Le Havre, New York, Savannah, Kingston, Cartagena (Col), Panama Canal (waypoint), Papeete, Lautoka, Noumea, Sydney, Melbourne, Tauranga, Napier, Tauranga, Lyttelton, Panama Canal (waypoint), Manzanillo (Pan), Kingston, Savannah, Philadelphia, Tilbury.
The French Line’s service offers a number of unique characteristics as being for example the only direct link between Northern Europe and Tahiti and New Zealand.