Feeder lines face change

Expansion of Asian feeder systems will have to rely on the foresight and conviction of hub centres and survival skills of feeder operators, a shipping executive says.

Chan Tuck Hoi, executive vice-president of Singapore-based Regional Container Lines (RCL), said an operator had to invest in a sizeable fleet of modern, high-specification feeder ships to seize opportunities for growth.

'The operator should also have strong financial support and management to capitalise on economic viability in the ever-changing feeder systems in Asia,' he said.

Speaking at the sixth International Symposium on Liner Shipping, Mr Chan said operators needed innovative marketing and quality service.

RCL, besides providing fixed-schedule services, also could provide tailor-made solutions to shippers' needs.

Demand for feeder services would continue in line with economic growth and expansion of major hubs in Asia, with systems likely to undergo structural changes to meet new directions of container trades, Mr Chan said.

In the future there would be a small number of main hubs in Asia supported by a cluster of smaller hubs.

'The main hubs could be linked up with one another so as to create a greater regional feeder system,' he said.

A fleet of 2,000-3,000 teu (20 ft equivalent unit) vessels could provide high-frequency links between hubs such as North China and Southeast Asia.

'As transshipment volumes grow, Singapore could develop into an Asian mega-hub, which in turn could connect with main hubs in Europe,' he said