An ultra-large containership belonging to CMA CGM is bypassing the Suez Canal on its return trip to Asia, adding some 3,000 miles and five days to the journey as impacts of coronavirus and low oil prices ripple across the supply chains.
The 16,022 TEU capacity CMA CGM Alexander Von Humbolt last called in Algeciras, Spain on March 27 and was last tracked underway off of West Africa as of March 31. The vessel has a destination of Port Klang, Malaysia with an expected arrival of April 21, making for a total transit time of 26 days, as opposed to the typical 21-day transit.
The detour of the CMA CGM Alexander Von Humbolt was first pointed out by Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaIntelligence Consulting.
“The trip is more than 3000 nautical miles longer and the speed is increased by more than 2 knots for the journey despite the added 5 days to the schedule,” writes Lars in a post on LinkedIn.
CMA CGM Alexander Von Humbolt operates on the Ocean Alliance’s French Asia Line 1 (FAL 1). The eastbound leg of the route typically has ships travel through the Suez Canal after calling in northern Europe.
While unusual, re-routing ships around the southern tip of Africa and South America to avoid Suez Canal and Panama Canal tolls is not unheard of.
In 2015-2016, as the container shipping industry struggled with severe overcapacity and ultra-low bunker fuel prices, more than 100 vessels deployed on Asia-U.S. East Coast and Asia-North Europe services made backhaul trip to Asia by traveling around the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Suez route.
The re-routing of the Alexander Von Humbolt comes amid a historic crash in oil prices brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Saudi oil price war. Even though the ship will burn more fuel by taking the long way around, avoiding the high cost of the Suez Canal toll can in some instances actually make the trip more economical.
“The canal already has a 45-65% discount scheme for USEC vessels to prevent re-routing. A few days ago they announced a 6% discount for European vessels – but as is evident with the CMA vessel that is not sufficient to prevent round-Africa routings,” said Lars.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the other 11 vessels on the FAL 1 route were also being re-routed.