Grand Alliance to launch fleet of mega-carriers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 12:00am

The Grand Alliance is to boost its services, with member lines due to put 18 new Post-Panamax vessels into service by the end of next year.

Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) has six 5,500 teu (20 ft equivalent unit) vessels starting operations between December and August next year, Hapag Lloyd will supply seven 4,800 teu vessels and P&O Nedlloyd will supply five 5,500 teu vessels.

OOCL's six 5,500-teu vessels are on order from Taiwan and South Korea shipyards. It says they will enter the key east-west trades, either Asia-Europe or Asia-United States.

The company's Asia-Pacific managing director Jim Poon said the route would be decided after talks with its partners.

The alliance groups OOCL, Hapag Lloyd, Malaysia International Shipping Corp, NYK Line and P&O Nedlloyd.

OOCL expected to benefit this year because early alliance problems had been solved, he said.

Mr Poon said OOCL's annual slot capacity would rise to two million teu by the end of next year, up from 1.6 million teu this year, with the latest multi-year charter deal for two 5,500-teu vessels from Nord Capital.

Last year, OOCL made a similar deal with Nord Capital involving two similar ships - costing about US$60 million each.

When the four newbuildings in South Korea are delivered later this year and next year, OOCL will sell four older and smaller vessels.

A P&O Nedlloyd official said it had ordered five Post-Panamax container vessels for delivery between October this year and August next year.

The vessels were likely to operate on the Europe-Asia, Pacific or Atlantic routes, she said.

The five vessels included three being built at the German shipyards of Kvaerner in Rostock and two being built by Aker-MTW at its Wismar yards.

The container vessels, each with 5,000 teu capacity and 500 plugs for refrigerated containers, would replace existing capacity, some of which would be scrapped.

The newbuildings, each with a maximum speed of 25.3 knots, would be added to the P&O Nedlloyd fleet on the basis of long-term charter and would be owned and financed by third parties.

Hapag Lloyd operations director Thomas Lau said four 4,800 teu vessels, being built in South Korea would be delivered from the first quarter to the third quarter next year.

The carrier would get three more vessels on long-term charter from Costamaire, a Greek firm.

The vessels, which would be operated in the Grand Alliance, would replace smaller vessels.

Hapag Lloyd expected business this year to be at a level similar to that of last year.

It was looking forward to the rate increase on the Europe and trans-Pacific trades.

Inbound traffic to Asia from Europe was still bad, Mr Lau said. Hapag Lloyd was seeing three boxes of exports for every one of imports.

The company was using its regional headquarters in Singapore to rectify the imbalance by juggling the boxes on the routes which gave best returns.

Working relationships with Grand Alliance members seemed to be going smoothly, he said.