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Asia-Europe rate war could return with launch of new alliances

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Could yet another rate war on the Asia-Europe westbound trade be round the corner, as the three alliances prepare for battle over market share next month?

According to data from Alphaliner, from 1 April, the 2M+HMM (including Hamburg Sud), the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance will offer 17 weekly strings between Asia and North Europe – one more than currently provided by the current four alliances.

The analyst says total weekly capacity on the route will jump by 9.6%, with the biggest increase coming from the 2M, which, apart from upsizing its five loops to ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) of 18,000-20,000 teu, will introduce a sixth loop.

Maersk and MSC have sought to justify the additional AE7/Condor service by arguing it would be necessary to accommodate the additional volumes from the slot charter agreements with HMM and Hamburg Sud.

The extra loop and the vessel upgrading will see the 2M’s average weekly capacity between Asia and North Europe increase by 23%, from 83,500 teu to 103,000 teu next month.

Of this extra capacity, Alphaliner reports that HMM will take about 6,000 teu and Hamburg Sud around 4,000 teu, leaving – in theory – some 10,000 teu of available slots to be shared between Maersk and MSC on the new service.

However, one well-connected source told The Loadstar recently that Hamburg Sud’s Asia-North Europe weekly requirement from April would be “less than 2,000 teu”, given that it had “wound down” much of its marketing on the trade ahead of its eventual sale to Maersk Line.

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