Great Eagle eyes trade within Asia
Keith Wallis in London
Newly launched container shipping company Great Eagle Shipping Lines is to introduce up to four box shipping services next year between northeast and Southeast Asia to capture a slice of the booming trade within Asia.
This move comes as container volumes on trade routes within Asia are forecast to grow by about 10 per cent per year over the next four years to about 50.7 million teu (20-foot equivalent units) in 2013.
The new carrier has been launched by Igal Dafni, former regional head of the Israeli shipping company Zim Integrated Shipping Services and chief executive of the Taiwanese shipping company CNC Line. He said the intra-Asia trade offered the brightest prospects for container shipping companies because most trade growth would continue to be driven by China.
Great Eagle Shipping Lines started its maiden shuttle service between Hong Kong and Haiphong, in northern Vietnam, with the 700 teu capacity container ship Pandora.
The company is eyeing expansion next year with more routes and larger ships leased from other operators.
'We intend to open three to four additional services in 2011 covering the routes between northeast Asia and Southeast Asia,' Dafni said. 'We will deploy vessels ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 teu. At this stage all our tonnage will be chartered tonnage.'
The shuttle service has run at almost full capacity since its launch. The main cargoes into Vietnam are consumer and semi-finished products, together with perishable goods such as fruit, mostly from China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
Dafni said that containers coming out of Haiphong were mainly empties being repositioned back to Asia's main export markets.
Great Eagle Shipping Lines is competing with other major carriers on the intra-Asian trade, including the Tung family-controlled shipping firm Orient Overseas Container Line, and with Wan Hai Lines and Yang Ming Marine Transport, which are both from Taiwan.
However, Dafni said he believed his company's leaner and more flexible approach gave it an advantage over the larger shipping lines.
'It is difficult to do miracles in a market which is so highly saturated,' he said. 'Nevertheless we believe that, with a flat, low-cost organisation, quick decision-making, many years experience in the intra-Asia market and a lot of cordial relations with the other main participants, we can find our share within the growing intra-Asia market.'
Dafni said that forecasts by Drewry, the international shipping research group, showed intra-Asia container volumes would rise by 10 per cent this year. Similar growth was predicted over the next three years.
Expansion of China's domestic market would bring more business opportunities for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, especially with the expansion of the China-Asean Free Trade Area (Cafta).
'Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar will join Cafta in 2015. China and the new four members will eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of imported goods,' Dafni said.
Container volumes on trade routes within Asia are forecast to grow by this much per year for the next four years: 10%