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Maritime Logistics Professional

Short, sharp services an alternative to slow steaming lines

Posted to Far East Maritime (by on August 12, 2010

Instead of heading for the airport, there is a cheaper way for shippers to get their goods to US markets.

There are interesting things happening on the transpacific container trade. Two new services are about to be launched, one by mainland line Hainan Pan Ocean Shipping and the second by US carrier Matson Line.

According to the UK-based PR News Service, Hainan will use four 2,500 TEU ships on a Shanghai, Ningbo, Long Beach rotation, while Matson will deploy 3,500 TEU vessels on a Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Long Beach service.

These two services come on the back of The Container Company (TCC) that steamed into service recently, offering a shuttle service between Taicang just north of Shanghai and Los Angeles.

With the major carriers all slow steaming to save on operating costs, these three new services appear to be intent on capturing those shippers who cannot afford, or simply dislike, adding an additional week to their cargo transit time.

Slow steaming has taken some adjusting to and it will not be going away any time soon. In fact, OOIL chief financial officer Ken Cambie said last week that he expected slow steaming to become a permanent fixture of intercontinental container shipping.

This opens the door for services such as that offered by the point-to-point TCC. Taicang is closer to the factories of the Yangtze River Delta than Shanghai and access to the port is not constricted by heavy traffic. Once loaded, containers sail straight to Los Angeles, saving shippers time and money.

The Hainan Pan Ocean service also limits coverage of China to two ports relatively close to each other – Shanghai and Ningbo. This will enable brisk transit times between the mainland and Long Beach.

Matson’s service adds calls at both the Pearl River Delta (HK and Shenzhen) and the Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai), before heading straight for Long Beach.

As the three services develop, the carriers should resist the temptation to slow steam. Because what they offer is a viable alternative for shippers who need to get things to the US quickly without blowing their margins and heading for the airport.

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