By Mike Wackett
(The Loadstar) – Maersk Line is switching a second Asia-North Europe loop vessel to London Gateway this week after concerns over ship and landside congestion at Felixstowe.
And with the Chinese New Year holiday looming, shippers can expect considerably more disruption to supply chains as ocean carriers endeavour to overcome the impact of three weeks of reduced bookings.
“Due to the forecasted weather towards next weekend and congestion at the port of Felixstowe, we have arranged to divert the Maersk Kolkata (96W/1606) to London Gateway,” Maersk said in a customer advisory on Friday.
The 6,252 teu vessel is deployed on the carrier’s AE1 service, which it operates with its 2M alliance partner MSC. According to local sources the ship will discharge 1,400 containers in a 24-hour over the weekend.
It will be Maersk Line’s second Asia-Europe ship to be diverted from Felixstowe to the DP World facility. The 8,850 teu Maersk Lavras sailed from London Gateway this morning, having discharged around 2,250 containers of Asian imports.
One agent told The Loadstar that there were no reported delays in collecting Maersk Lavras boxes, suggesting that the early decision to divert the ship had allowed sufficient time for communications between stakeholders.
Elsewhere, shippers are set to face some challenging weeks as Asia-North Europe carriers cancel a series of sailings to mitigate the expected low demand over the CNY holiday, which begins on 8 February.
Both the G6 alliance members and Maersk Line, on behalf of the 2M, have published a list of blanked sailings during weeks 6, 7 and 8, together with ‘contingency’ plans for bookings already made for the voided voyages.
It is likely that Asian shippers to North Europe will see increasing numbers of containers transhipped during the holiday, not only extending transit times but adding to the risk of boxes remaining on the quayside at a way port.
Over the past year, shippers have grumbled to The Loadstar that the formation of four major east-west alliances meant it had become more difficult to track container movements.
Privately, one alliance carrier said recently that the standard of operational communication from some of their alliance partners “left a lot to be desired”.
Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that Maersk Line’s CNY contingency plans include a number of “inducement” calls at North European ports, including: Southampton, Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven and Le Havre.
The word is more commonly to be found in shipping relating to the tramp market rather than liner services, and shippers booking cargo for an inducement port are unlikely to receive confirmation that their containers will be shipped on to their nominated destination until the latter stages of ship planning.
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