New shipping alliance schedules cause freight chaos

Massive disruption reported on Asia-Europe ocean shipping lanes as two major shipping alliances try to implement new schedules.
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Freight forwarders have described the Asia-Europe schedules of the Ocean and THE alliances as ‘organised chaos’ this week, with thousands of containers stranded in Asia and Europe.

The Ocean Alliance brings together the recently formed China Cosco Shipping, with Evergreen Line, CMA CGM, and OOCL in a vessel- and slot-sharing agreement, while THE alliance consists of NYK Line, MOL, “K” Line, Hapag-Lloyd, and Yang Ming Line.

Commentators say there is very little chance of vessels hitting itineraries before June as the two major shipping alliances transition ships and containers from previous schedules to their new alliance hubs.

The move has proven more complicated than expected, according to one shipping alliance member that spoke to The Loadstar.

The shipper added that it had containers stranded at terminals between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

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He admitted that phasing-in and -out had been “a disaster”, resulting in big gaps appearing in network coverage.

“We are chartering-in or using commercial feeders where we are allowed to,” he said, “but it is tough to get approval, and sometimes the containers will just have to stay on the quay until the next big ship call.”

He added that where an alliance was no longer calling at a terminal, a “best-cost option” to repatriate containers was being applied.

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The greatest disruption is in Shanghai, where hundreds of containers have been stranded for as many as eight weeks, port officials say that much of the congestion is being driven by ultra-large containerships running off-schedule and ‘bunching’, clogging the port.

There have been reports of ships waiting at anchor for up to three days to get onto berths, a situation exacerbated by dense fog and congestion is now said to be spreading to other major Chinese ports, such as Ningbo and Qingdao.

Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port did not respond to a request for comment, but according to AIS data there have been no berth shortages at the port, which is going ahead with a major expansion project to increase capacity and throughput.

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