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Mega ocean cargo vessels not likely to stay in the Transpacific

Maritime analysts were equally nonplussed, noting that it represents “less of a breakthrough” than port authorities contend.
By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
March 22, 2012

Amid all the fanfare made yesterday with the arrival of MSC’s “mega” vessel at the Port of Oakland, industry experts remain doubtful that this signals a Transpacific trend.

Weighing in at 12,550 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the Fabiola is the largest containership ever to call at North America. Having first called the Port of Long Beach, it steamed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday. But for many who witnessed the event, it was merely a temporary distraction from the ongoing Bay activities related to America’s Cup.

Maritime analysts were equally nonplussed, noting that it represents “less of a breakthrough” than port authorities contend.

“While the MSC FABIOLA is over 25 percent larger than any other ship to call on the U.S. West Coast, it was only 70 percent full when it arrived at Long Beach and it is not scheduled to make another Transpacific rotation after its maiden call,” said Stephen Fletcher, commercial director of the Paris-based consultancy, Alphaliner.

Indeed, from now on MSC will instead deploy three smaller 11,660 teu ships to the FE-USWC “Pearl River Express” (PRX) service which the shipping line jointly operates with CMA CGM, which is using three ships of 9,600 TEU on the same route.

“The other carriers active in the trade are not expected to follow MSC’s example,” said Alphaliner. “They are not expected to deploy ships larger than 10,000 TEU on the transpacific route in the near future, as they are unlikely to be able to fully utilize the available capacity of such ships.

Alphaliner noted that the larger ships also pose operational challenges – MSC’s mega vessels on the PRX cannot be handled at the line’s regular Long Beach terminal (SSA Pier A/Pier J). Instead, their calls had to be shifted to the Hanjin-operated TTI terminal.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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