Box trade to Europe expands

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2003, 12:00am

First-quarter cargo figures show there was a rise of almost 20pc in shipments from Asia, says the FEFC

Cash-strapped carrier executives have been heartened by first-quarter figures showing a rise of almost 20 per cent in box trade between Asia and northern Europe.

The data raises the chances of proposed freight rate increases remaining in place.

Box traffic moved by Far Eastern Freight Conference (FEFC) members' lines from Asia to northern Europe jumped a comparative 20 per cent in the first quarter.

The FEFC said member lines, which move about 60 per cent of the market between Asia and Europe, carried 764,000 teu (20-ft equivalent units) in the quarter.

Eastbound trade, traditionally the weaker leg, rose 16 per cent to 512,000 teu year on year.

The surge in trade increased the probability of their customers accepting the proposed US$250-per teu rate rise for the summer season - July 1 to September 30 - for cargo moving from Asia to Europe, excluding Japanese exports.

FEFC lines, over the same period, plan to raise by US$300 the per-unit freight rate for all exports from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and the Malaysian ports of Penang and Pasir Gudang.

Interim rates for six-month contracts from July 1 will rise US$350 per teu for contracts to northern Europe and Scandinavia, making the freight rate $1,550 per teu.

Contract rates from to Mediterranean ports will reach US$1,500 per teu. All interim rates could rise further by adding surcharges such as those imposed for peak seasons, congestion and insurance.

FEFC surcharges on contract rates are rare. But one senior carrier executive said the potential for a surcharge on contract rates was a 'clear indication that we may have been slightly pessimistic when we announced this year's business plan back in November last year'.

Predictably, the biggest increase in westbound volume to northern Europe came from China, which exported 44 per cent more containers in the first quarter, or 313,000 teu. South Korean exports carried by FEFC member lines to the northern continent rose 14 per cent year on year to 39,000 teu, while Taiwanese exports grew 8 per cent to 38,000 teu.

From Southeast Asia, the biggest increase in export cargo to northern Europe was recorded from Indonesia, which rose 21 per cent year on year to 45,000 teu, while Thai exports grew 13 per cent to 44,000 teu.

Trade between Asia and ports in the Mediterranean expanded in similar fashion, albeit from a smaller base. For instance, Japanese exports carried by FEFC member lines to the southern European region jumped a comparative 24 per cent to 22,000 teu.

China also showed the most impressive increase on the eastbound trade lanes in the first quarter, importing 38 per cent more goods aboard FEFC ships to 121,000 teu.

The strong growth will be welcomed by FEFC carriers planning a series of new services between Asia and Europe. French flag carrier CMA-CGM, Norasia and Singapore's American President Lines will this month launch the Sundra Express service linking Southeast Asia with the Mediterranean and northern Europe.

The seven-ship service will focus on Jakarta, Singapore and Port Kelang in Southeast Asia, and offer transshipment calls at Malta and Piraeus in the Mediterranean. In North Europe, it will include calls at Zeebrugge, CMA-CGM's European hub port. The Grand Alliance is launching an eight-ship service between China and Europe next month.

Paul Richardson's e-mail address is