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MSC, Maersk slowing ships, modifying rotations

Two largest containership carriers making moves to improve schedule reliability.

   The two largest containership carriers are looking at slowing ships and modifying vessel rotations in an effort to improve the reliability of their services.
   In an interview with Lloyd’s List earlier this week, Diego Aponte, the chief executive officer of Mediterranean Shipping Company, said his company has “decided to go for more slow steaming, and will add vessels to current strings that we operate in order to improve punctuality.”
   By cutting ship speeds and adding an additional ship to a string, MSC believes it will have more time between port calls and be better able to maintain schedules. He said MSC will withdraw ships from unprofitable loops and that those ships can be repositioned to other trades.
   He said terminals are having difficulty handling megaships efficiently, resulting in delays.
   “We believe that for our customers, it is more important to be regular and for ships to arrive on the published day of the week,” Aponte said.
   Statistics released earlier in the year by SeaIntel showed that industry-wide only two-thirds of containerships were arriving on time.
   Aponte told Lloyd’s List that MSC already has started to slow ships on services on north-south routes and that it has approached Maersk Line about making changes on their joint 2M network.
    A spokesman said that while MSC’s key focus is on improving the punctuality and reliability of its services, the changes MSC wants to make will help reduce fuel costs.
   Aponte noted it can be very costly if a ship, for example, has to speed up from its design speed of 18 knots to 20 knots in order to get back on schedule. He also noted the environmental benefits of ships traveling at lower speeds and having reduced emissions.
   Maersk said in a statement Tuesday that “reliability in the industry and for Maersk Line is lower than we would want it to be and there are many levers a shipping company can pull to increase punctuality and efficiency. These include the removal of port calls, the reduction of speed as well as adding ships to a service.”
   Maersk added it is “constantly looking for ways to improve our network, making it more efficient and customer-oriented. Our recently announced 2M network changes address this issue where different measures were taken to increase service delivery, including the removal of port calls as well as the reduction of speed. We will continue to pursue further improvements, taking into consideration all available tools in the toolbox.”
   In March Maersk said services between Asia and North Europe and the Mediterranean were being modified increase schedule reliability by reducing duplicate port calls and improving buffers in schedules, making it easier to accommodate potential disruptions and reduce the necessity to omit port calls.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.