OPINION: Compact boxships enter the land of the giants
Smaller ships are making appearances in the Asia-North Europe trade. Cheap charter rates mean that classic Panamax ships can make a profit in this trade populated with mega-ships.
As of next month there will be three weekly Asia-North Europe services using ships of around 5,000 TEU that were previously thought to have been banished from the trade in the era of the ultra large container vessel (ULCV).
French carrier CMA CGM has been at the vanguard of this classic Panamax revival, introducing the fortnightly SEANE service in July last year, before upgrading the loop to weekly this month. Alongside Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM also has the longer-established Europe-Australasia NEWMO/EAX service (average ship size of 6,100 TEU) that connects Singapore with ports in North Europe on the return leg, although that is not the primary trade of the service.
Next up will be Hyundai Merchant Marine’s new independent offering, the Asia Europe Express (AEX), which is scheduled to start operations on April 8 with the departure of the 4,728TEU Hyundai Forward from Busan. HMM confirmed the port rotation as: Busan, Shanghai, Ningbo, Kaohsiung, Yantian, Singapore, Colombo, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Southampton, Singapore, Hong Kong, and back to Busan.