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America set to welcome the world’s largest boxship as coronavirus container repositioning operations expand

In a few weeks America will catch a glimpse of a boxship in excess of 20,000 teu for the first time as drastic measures are put in place around the world to reposition containers in the wake of the coronavirus that has stifled supply chains.

Alphaliner is reporting MSC is set to redeploy the 23,756 teu MSC Mia, which currently holds the joint record as the world’s largest container vessel, as well as the 23,656 teu MSC Nela from the Asia-Europe trades onto the transpacific in services it operates with Maersk as part of the pair’s 2M vessel sharing agreement.

“Compared to the 13,000+ teu ships normally trading on the 2M’s Transpacific services, the ad hoc deployment of megamaxes will allow the shipping line(s) to carry a typical service load and at least an additional 6,000 teu worth of empty containers to America,” Alphaliner noted in its most recent weekly report.

The sailings of the MSC Mia and MSC Nela will increase the number of so called megamaxes temporarily deployed on transpacific loops to four, as the 19,224 teu MSC Oscar already calls at Los Angeles this week, while the 19,368 teu MSC Anna will be redeployed later this month.

The drastic shortage of empty boxes thanks to the coronavirus is also being keenly felt in Europe.

“This container imbalance is however expected to be short-lived as Chinese exports are picking up again,” Alphaliner predicted, adding: “Volumes might even peak in April, as European and US importers will sooner or later have to replenish their stocks of products made in China.”

Lars Jensen, writing on Linkedn, has also shared his thoughts on container repositioning in light of the escalating number of cases of coronavirus seen in the west. The Sea-Intelligence container shipping analyst warned that the increase of the number of people in quarantine in Europe leaves companies short-staffed slowing down all work processes. Hence even if a container is delivered to port, there is no guarantee it will be picked up, emptied and redelivered in a timely fashion.

“The net effect in Europe over the coming weeks will be a slow-down in the turn-around speed of containers,” Jensen wrote. “This in turn will mean a slow-down in the repositioning of containers to Asia – and hence further increases the likelihood that we will see container shortages in Asia when volumes pick up.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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