2M Carriers Emphasize Reliability and Faster Transit Times
2M carriers Maersk Line and MSC last week announced details of a new Asia-North Europe network that will come into effect during the peak holiday shipping season in the third quarter of this year.
The number of ships and services are staying the same “but the port rotations of each loop will be altered,” noted Drewry in a recent report, “and with fewer port calls transit times will be reduced.”
Maersk has said the changes are being made to “ensure it is better equipped to deal with contingencies.”
One of the benefits touted by the THE Alliance when it announced its formation recently is that shippers can look forward to “very attractive transit times.”
“It seems that the 2M carriers have decided to take up the challenge and speed things up ahead of their new rivals,” the Drewry report commented.
The 2M carriers decided not to increase the operating speed of vessels because that would use more fuel and bunker prices have doubled in recent months. Rather, the 2M carriers have decided to reduce the number of ports served. “Inevitably this means that they will lose some direct connections,” Drewry noted, “but the payoff is that transit times in surviving corridors can be reduced as more time is spent at sea.”
The reduction of port calls will come from Asia with the number of westbound departures from the region dropping from 36 to 33. One of the departures from Japan will also be eliminated. Kobe and Nagoya will no longer be served by 2M’s direct network to North Europe and only one weekly westbound call from Yokohama will remain.
“This,” Drewry speculated, “is perhaps an admission that they do not expect to be able to compete in the Japan market with THE Alliance and its three Japanese partners.”
Drewry research shows that, in fact, 2M will succeed at having the best transit times from three ports in Asia to Hamburg, and from five Asian ports to Rotterdam when the new network comes into effect next year.
“The reductions in transit times from 2M’s network re-tuning are not huge but it is clear that shippers can expect to see carriers and alliances putting speed and reliability at the forefront of their sales pitches,” Drewry concluded. “It is likely that the other two alliance groups will design their own networks to be competitive with 2M. Ships are unlikely to be sped up due to rising fuel prices and on-going cost-cutting measures so expect more streamlined services with fewer port calls.”
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