Maersk Line increases capacity on Thailand – Straits – Africa loop

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The 4,360 teu SEALAND METEOR phases into the ‘Horn of Africa’ service beginning of September / Credit: Hannes van Rijn

Maersk Line will soon have completed the upgrade of its Southeast Asia to East Africa service. The Danish carrier is phasing-in three 4,360 teu full panamax vessels of the ‘Sealand Champion’ series that will trade next to four 3,604 teu ‘Nedlloyd Europa’ type open-top ships.

Compared to a year ago, when vessels of 2,700 teu were commonly deployed on Maersk’s East Africa service, the loop’s capacity will have increased quite significantly by September.

The capacity upgrade goes hand in hand with Maersk’s decision to extend the former Straits to East Africa loop to Thailand. This was done as part of a wider initiative, which saw the creation of two direct links from Africa to Laem Chabang. At the occasion, the service’s round trip time was extended from 42 to 49 days, to accommodate the new Thailand leg. A seventh ship was added to maintain weekly sailings.

Maersk’s Thailand – Straits – Horn of Africa service now trades as follows:
Laem Chabang, Tanjung Pelepas, Jebel Ali, Djibouti, Jeddah, Port Sudan, Djibouti, Laem Chabang.

Maersk’s upgrade underlines that carriers see a high potential in East Africa, a trade lane that promises to be among the growing trades of the near future.

In the not too distant future, further cascading in Maersk Line’s fleet might well replace the carrier’s peculiar open-top container vessels of the ‘Nedlloyd Europa’ design on the Thailand to Africa route. Originally built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Group for Nedlloyd, a company that merged into P&O Nedlloyd in 1996 and that was then again taken over by Maersk in 2005, the ships were managed by Germany’s Blue Star since 2004 as part of a sale and leaseback deal. As part of the consolidation among German non-operating owners, the ships came oder control of E.R. Schiffahrt of Hamburg about one year ago.

Given their size, unique design, low reefer intake and old age, these 3,604 teu vessels are likely candidates for recycling, once replaced on their current loop.

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