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Global Supply Chain News: Maersk Sets TEU Record, Testing Arctic Route, Puts Capacity on New US Exchange


Lots of Interesting News from Maersk Line in Recent Weeks

Aug. 29, 2018
SCDigest Editorial Staff

The Mumbai Maersk vessel has just set a new world record for most containers carrier on a container ship, breaking the 19,000 TEU mark at 19,038.

The record was set as the ship left the port at Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, as it set sail for Europe.

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Russian officials have said that new icebreakers will allow for year-round navigation on arctic routes in the 2020s.

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The Mumbai Maersk, launched earlier this year, sails under the most recent Triple-E class vessel design, and has a nameplate capacity of 20,600 TEU.

UASC (now part of Hapag-Lloyd) set a previous record in 2015 when its ship the Al Muraykh was loaded 18,601 containers. Maersk Line's Madison Maersk loaded 18,215 TEU the same year.

The record-breaking load also marks a sign of strategic progress, Maersk sayd. Tanjung Pelepas is a high-productivity hub terminal. Keith Svendsen, the COO of Maersk-owned APM Terminals, said that the firm's hub ports are currently breaking productivity records.

Tanjung Pelepas is investing heavily to boost its capacity, and expects to be able to handle 13.5 million TEU per year by 2020, including investment in new crane technology.

In other news, Maersk estimates it can reduce the days it takes for a container ship sailing from Asia to Europe via the Arctic Sea, versus the current route through the Suez Canal.

The carrier recently announced that it will test an artic route in early September. Such a route was long not deemed feasible, but global warming has cleared enough ice to make a journey possible.

Maersk says this is a one-off voyage – for now. The "ice class" Venta Maersk making the journey is a new ship with a reinforced hull and a capacity of 3,600 containers. It is carrying Russian fish and South Korean electronics, among other cargo.

The company says it sees the Arctic sailing as "a trial to explore an unknown route for container shipping and to collect scientific data" to judge broader feasibility.

Interestingly, the test by Maersk is potential good news for Russia, which hopes this could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.


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"A well-respected company like Maersk sending a container ship through the Arctic, definitely signals there's something there," Malte Humpert, a senior fellow at U.S.-based think-tank Arctic Institute, said.

The Northern Sea Route runs from Murmansk near Russia's border with Norway all the way to the Bering Strait near Alaska. Ships sailing it require a permit from Russian authorities, Reueters reported.

While the route is significantly shorter than going via the Suez Canal, it has not yet proven to be commercially viable for container shippers, and is still available only about three months per year – for now.

"Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to our usual routes," a spokeswoman for Maersk said. But that could change.

And Russian officials have said that new icebreakers will allow for year-round navigation in the 2020s.

In January, China revealed ambitions to create a "Polar Silk Road" by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming and encouraging enterprises to build infrastructure in the Arctic.

Maersk to Put Capacity on New US Exchange

Maersk Line says it will team with a maritime technology start-up to offer shippers container space on one of its busiest trade lanes.

The New York Shipping Exchange (NYSHEX) says Maersk will use its platform for the first time to post offers for container space from China to the US.

The new offering comes at a period of peak seasonal demand for container shipping, ramping up from mid-August through early October.

Maersk did not say how much capacity will be offered on NYSHEX, with the volume varying depending on availability. But a company executive said that "with the feedback we're getting, we can see it is promising.

"We'll know more in the coming weeks with contracts secured and bookings being fulfilled" he added.

In January, Maersk joined as a carrier member of the NYSHEX, first offering capacity for containerized grain shipments. NYSHEX's other carrier members include Hapag Lloyd, CMA CGM, MOL, OOCL, and COSCO.

NYSHEX said in January that around 3,000-TEO of capacity had traded on its platform since its August 2017 launch – not much thus far.

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