North European feeder operators face uncertain future

Independent short sea carriers and common feeder operators in Northern Europe are being elbowed out of the sector by mainline operators in what appears to be an irreversible trend, Alphaliner reports in its latest weekly report, issued in the wake of Hamburg’s Team Lines announcing it will cease to operate come February 11.

The mainline operators’ share of the Northern European short sea and feeder capacity has increased from 34% to 56% over the last decade, based on Alphaliner’s analysis of all tonnage deployed on the intra – North Europe routes in 2009 and 2019.

The four largest European liners – MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd – are the dominant players in this area, with Cosco also growing in recent years.

“In contrast, the independent short sea carriers and common feeder operators in Northern Europe face an uncertain future, as they continue to lose market share to main line carriers,” Alphaliner reported.
Not only has these independent carriers’ share dipped from 66% to 44%, but the total capacity operated has also fallen from 164,000 teu in 2009 to only 117,000 teu currently as some of the existing carriers have shrunk their operations while several established players have either ceased operations or were absorbed by other carriers.

Team Lines’ recent announcement to shut down follows several other European names that have disappeared in the past decade, including Baltic Container Lines, Intermarine (IMCL), United Feeder Services, Feederlink, Tschudi Lines and MacAndrews, the latter of which is soon to be consolidated under the Containerships brand.

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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