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Maersk and MSC blank Asia – Europe/Med sailings as demand slumps

Just as container lines schedules from China seemed to be getting back to normal the 2M Alliance has blanked two Asia – Europe/Med sailings next week as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic starts to hit demand in western nations.

2M Alliance members Maersk and MSC announced they would be blanking the AE1/Shogun Asia – Europe service next week and the AE20/Dragon Asia – Mediterranean service. The services are being blanked in response to falling demand due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe which has resulted in widespread lockdowns.

Commenting on the AE1 service in a customer advisory Maersk said: “In relation to the COVID-19 effect in Europe, we have seen a further reduction in demand. Consequently, there will be a blank sailing of the AE1 service departing from Far East Asia in week 14 and returning from North Europe in week 19.”

Sea Intelligence ceo Lars Jensen commented on Linkedin: “It is a capacity reduction of 13% to North Europe and 22% to the Med for the week. Normally blank sailings are announced with 3-4 weeks of notice, but these are not normal times.”

The move comes as container lines schedules were returning to normal following an unprecedented number of blanked sailings on their core Asia – Europe and transpacific services at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

David Jordan, regional director, Asia for Maritime Strategies International, said on a Seatrade Maritime News Webinar yesterday: “Liner companies have resorted to a significant programme of blanked sailings: over 50% of all sailings on core routes in order to support freight rates.”

More blanked sailings are expected to follow and yesterday we reported that while Chinese port container throughput figures are currently improving after the COVID-19 outbreak has brought under control the China Port & Harbor Association is forecasting a 5 – 10% drop in volumes in Q2 as result of lower demand internationally due to the pandemic.

A similar picture was painted by Hapag-Lloyd ceo Habben Jansen in a COVID-19 message. “In terms of trade, we see that many ports in China have returned to normal operations, and that scheduled sailings and bookings ex-China are gradually increasing,” he said.

“So far the crisis has had only limited impact on our business, but we expect a significant effect of the virus on global container traffic in the months to come, and if this happens we will have to make some adjustments to the network.”

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