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Maersk Unleashes Huge Asia-North Europe Rate Hike

Maersk is attempting to undo weeks of heavy discounting on the Asia-North Europe tradelane with a substantial increase in its FAK rates at the end of the month.

And it warned that other routes “may also be subject to increases” as it reassess rate structures across its network.

The rate announcement this morning will see Maersk’s FAK rates from Asian main ports to the three North European hubs of Rotterdam, Felixstowe and Gdansk increase on 31 July to $1,025 per 20ft and $1,900 per 40ft.

The carrier said it was needed in order “to continue offering you a broad portfolio of high-quality services”, adding that the rates would be valid until further notice, “but not beyond” 31 December.

The rate erosion on the trade has been accelerating, Xeneta’s XSI Asia-North Europe component average spot rate losing another 1.3% last week, to $1,224 per 40ft, having virtually halved since the beginning of the year.

And market rates for North Europe, including those offered via Maersk’s in-house platform, Twill, have been falling dramatically in the past few weeks to below $1,000 per 40ft, as early peak season demand has proved to be a damp squib. Indeed, hitherto Twill has been quite aggressive in the market, a number of The Loadstar’s forwarding and shipper contacts confirming they had agreed low rate deals with Maersk’s logistics arm.

Meanwhile, the Ningbo Containerized Freight Index (NCFI) commentary said today that the “over-supply” situation on the route had not improved.

“Carriers continue to undersell their space to canvass more shipping orders,” it said, adding that rates were “still falling”.

The disappointing start to the peak season with weak demand for Asian exports to the US and Europe has combined with the influx of a raft of newbuild ultra-large container vessels onto the Asia-North European tradelane. For example, THE Alliance FE3 loop will shortly see four 24,000 teu ships replace 13,400-19,870 teu vessels on the service, the additional capacity and increased allocations needing to be filled by alliance partners Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, HMM and Yang Ming.

Moreover, the two other east-west vessel-sharing alliances have also upgraded their Asia-North Europe loops with bigger ships as ULCVs have been delivered. None more so than the 2M, with MSC’s newbuild behemoth sisters MSC Irina and MSC Loreto, both of 24,346 teu and snatched the title of ‘world’s largest containership’from the recently delivered 24,188 teu OOCL Spain.

Meanwhile, the ‘shock and awe’ FAK rate hike announced by Maersk will only work if capacity is withdrawn, but it seems unlikely that MSC will agree to blanking any of its prestigious newbuilds as it prepares to operate as a standalone carrier after the 2M Alliance is dissolved.

Nevertheless, as the full extent of a damaging second quarter for carriers is revealed – with the potential of much worse to come –carriers may look to follow Maersk’s surprise hike today with similar versions, in the hope it will bring to an early end a period of sub-economic trading on the route.

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