Southeast Asian second ports now dock mega ships, spawning direct calls

THE growing competence of secondary ports in Asia to handle mega ships has resulted in container lines increasing direct calls in the region, reports London's Loadstar

08 April 2019 - 19:00
THE growing competence of secondary ports in Asia to handle mega ships has resulted in container lines increasing direct calls in the region, reports London's Loadstar.

Japanese container line ONE has drawn up plans to add a fifth weekly direct call at Vietnam in May and it will be the first to access the northern part of the country, directly linking it into the deepsea transpacific trade.

In Vietnam, the carrier already has four direct calls a week to the US from the southern deepwater port of Cai Mep, and in May it will add a fifth, operating from the northern port of Haiphong.

Recently expanded, the port's Lach Huyen terminal 'like Cai Mep' is capable of handling 14,000-TEU ships.

Vietnam's economy grew by more than seven per cent last year, a 10-year high that pegs it as the fastest-growing market in ASEAN. Total exports increased 13.8 per cent to US billion while national port volumes rose 20 per cent to reach 17.7 million TEU.

The growth is mirrored at Cai Mep, where volumes were up 21 per cent in the first 10 months of 2018, reaching 2.4 million TEU.

ONE chief executive Jeremy Nixon told Loadstar the carrier's strategy was to maintain its China coverage, while also increasing port calls across southeast Asia.

Thailand's major container gateway, Laem Chabang, has seen a 40 per cent capacity increase in vessels calling at the port since Hutchison opened its new Terminal D at the end of January.

As a result, ONE was able to upgrade its 14,000 TEU-operated Asia-North Europe FE5 service with direct calls from both Laem Chabang and Cai Mep.

'We're seeing increased interest and sourcing in southeast Asia from Europe,' said Mr Nixon, adding that both South-east Asia and the Indian subcontinent were becoming more competitive in manufacturing.

'There's significant growth there, both as consumer markets and manufacturing markets, because of their competitiveness in labour costs, the reasonably high population levels and relatively close proximity to the deepsea trades, in terms of hub port connections.'

In Indonesia, Jakarta's New Priok terminal has also won mainline services to the US and Europe.

But despite the regional port upgrades and subsequent uptick in direct calls, the southeast Asia transshipment market looks set to continue largely unchallenged, with the mega ships plying the deepsea trades having already surpassed most of the region's terminal handling capacity.

Said Mr Nixon: 'The ability to add mainline calls is really linked to the infrastructure quality and maturity of the terminals to accommodate big ships. The 14,000 TEU ships are at the upper end of the limit for a lot of the southeast Asia terminals, and so it's not so realistic to deploy 20,000 TEU ships on the Europe trade, for example.

'We'll continue to develop more direct calls where the market justifies it, but where customers are looking for frequency, and a direct call is not so important, we have that hub-and-spoke network.

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